Google’s +1 and Other Privacy Concerns: The Social Media Privacy Report

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A few weeks ago Google announced its new product in social search: Google +1. At the same time, the search engine giant also settled its Google Buzz suit with a new privacy compliance policy as negotiated by the FTC. This company obviously has some privacy issues; here is how they affect you.

Google +1

Google has been struggling to keep up with the social media arms race for some time now. It’s latest effort is an endeavor into social search with Google +1. According to the official site for the new feature, +1 will be integrated into Google’s search results as a way for users to suggest or recommend a search result to other users. Watch this video to see the nitty gritty of how this feature will work:

 

There are two ways that the +1’s will function; you can see a +1 or you can show +1. But privacy is a key consideration here. Who exactly can see or show you a +1? First, you need a Google profile in order to give any site or link the +1 seal of approval. According to Google, “When you create a profile, it’s visible to anyone and connections with your email address can easily find it.” Google also notes that in the preferences tab all users have the ability to keep their +1’s private and manage them personally or they can share with everyone. Thus, users who are interested in this social sharing concept have the option, but no one is forced to partake.

But what if you don’t want to see everyone else’s +1’s?  This point is firmly conveyed in Alexandra Petri’s Washington Post article. Her concern is that search results are private and that she doesn’t want to or need to know that other people are interested or pleased by something she is looking for on the web. Well, Google considered this too and if you read the +1 Privacy Policy, it should be noted that the ability to opt out is one of the +1 product’s features.

One last point: +1 allows Google to obtain and use a lot information about users and whether or not they like a website. In the aforementioned privacy policy, Google states, “We may share aggregate statistics related to users’ +1 activity with the public, our users, and partners, such as publishers, advertisers, or connected sites. For example, we may tell a publisher that ‘10% of the people who +1’d this page are in Tacoma, Washington.” For a more complete idea of how Google may use this acquired information with advertisers read this Q&A between The Next Web and Jim Prosser, Google’s Manager of Global Communications & Public Affairs.

Google Settles with the FTC

As Google announced +1, it also, according to CNET, settled with the Federal Trade Commission over the Buzz lawsuit that was filed in late 2010. When Buzz, one of Google’s failed efforts into the realm of social media, first launched, the network shared more information than Gmail users, who were automatically opted in without consent, reasonably expected. After the FTC ruling, Google admitted no wrongdoing, but the end result is that for the next twenty years, the company must submit regular reports on its privacy practices prepared by an independent professional.

Do you think the FTC did enough to make sure Google doesn’t violate user privacy in the future? Will +1 fail just like Buzz did or do you think it will be a great tool for social search? Does it hinder your online privacy? Will you use it or opt out?

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.

  • Chuck

    Umm… I cannot see how to disable +1.
    Google seems to have failed to follow through with its promise to give people the ability to disable this.