Google Answers Privacy Questions with Call for More Data

SMS Text

Last week Asa Dotzler, Mozilla’s director of community development, put out a link on his personal blog and stated:

Here’s how you can easily switch Firefox’s search from Google to Bing.

It was a pretty shocking move by a member of a company that has seen most of its revenue come from Google. It was a move brought on by concerns over the search giants view on privacy.

The comment was spurred by Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt comments on privacy:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” Schmidt told CNBC. “If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities

Why are they watching and storing what we do?

Data. The more data they can collect, the more they can personalize search. How does Schmidt feel about personalized search?

From his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

It’s the year 2015. The compact device in my hand delivers me the world, one news story at a time. I flip through my favorite papers and magazines, the images as crisp as in print, without a maddening wait for each page to load. Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. So while I get all the news and comment, I also see stories tailored for my interests. I zip through a health story in The Wall Street Journal and a piece about Iraq from Egypt’s Al Gomhuria, translated automatically from Arabic to English. I tap my finger on the screen, telling the computer brains underneath it got this suggestion right…

Personalized search can only happen with data collection, this is a reality. How does Google collect data?

Gmail and Google Accounts
Google Analytics
Google Chrome (browser and OS)
Google Toolbar
On and on and on…

Their new love? Real Time Search data. This data comes in the form of APIs from places such as Twitter in some cases, and can give the engines much of the information they need to fuel time based elements in the ranking algorithm such as Query Deserves Freshness (QDF). Real time data allows them to pull in trending information, links, and pages linked from conversation without a crawl.

Why stop there? Enter, Google’s URL shortener. What kind of information can you pull from a URL shortner?

1. What information people care enough to share – will likely be a huge signal if you are logged in
2. What information people are clicking on
3. Referral sources for differing pages that do not include Google Analytics

The really strange component of this addition to Google’s product set is that it goes against what initially made them THE search engine, the interlinking web’s use in ranking. 301 or no, that loss of anchor text and the credit from direct citation are something that seem to be against everything the engine was founded on. However, they are everything the engine is moving towards. Data driven results.

Eventually this data will not only mean your results being shaped by what you like, but also your social web. Think about this, if I am logged into Google and share 30 pieces of content and you click on 25 out of the 30, do you think this will begin to shape your SERPs?

More involuntary personalization.

Less of the web delivered.

Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • David

    Ah you forgot to list recent purchase reCAPTCHA, as this also provides details about conversion rates without having the have the site setup Google Analytics or Conversion tracking code.

    The Google URL is just a small provider of data compared to reCAPTCHA which is on millions of websites…

  • @steveplunkett


    “Eventually this data will not only mean your results being shaped by what you like, but also your social web. Think about this, if I am logged into Google and share 30 pieces of content and you click on 25 out of the 30, do you think this will begin to shape your SERPs?”

    What if i like the 25 pieces i clicked on, i didn’t like the 30… the 5 inbetween were about, i dunno… link building.. something i have no interest in. Will google then know not to list link building articles, IF i am logged in, when i search for SEO?

    the big picture i think everyone is missing is… THIS MAKES SEO CRUCIAL to any business’ footprint on the web. More data into search, more study of qualified keywords to better target a client’s potential customers, even retargeting the shoppers that left the shopping cart.

    From a B2B perspective, companies must have some type of ORM initiative in place, otherwise, whatever people say on twitter will define their image, *(FOR A CERTAIN TIME PERIOD) – but good SEO will be there before and after, and GREAT SEO will be targeting the factors of personalization…


  • Tad Chef

    After the acquisition of DoubleClick they can track everything and everybody. they know who visits what sites. Also everybody can look up some of the data in Google Ad Planner.

  • Rennell Garrett

    Go here and see for yourself how google is collecting your information. When i first saw that i went like wow……

  • mark rushworth

    …but what happens if i want to step out of my comfort zone and find something new… personalised search stops me from doing this.

    for example, i bought a pair of ugg boots for my mum on amazon, it was a one time present and unlikely to be repeated as i dont have a habit of buying eomens shoes 🙂 but now every time i log into amazon i face a barage of womens products despite having bought loads of male orientates stuff since… personalisation is flawed! i prefer to not be coralled into viewing the same information and sites over and over again, i preferred google back in 2002 when every search was global!

    maybe personalisation should be opt in rather than the defacto.