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Should Google have access to social network data?.

The author

Craig Jackson

Front End Web Developer

Google recently extended its Knowledge Graph to Britain and, at the same time, made it possible for people to search their Gmail messages from the Google.com search box.

Google recently extended its Knowledge Graph to Britain and, at the same time, made it possible for people to search their Gmail messages from the Google.com search box. The functionality to search personal Gmail messages from the Google.com search box is a limited field trial which Google’s search chief, Amit Singhal, described to The Telegraph as a “baby step towards pre-emptive search” and an example of search engines “getting to know people better”. The Knowledge Graph is explained as “a database of over 500 million real-world people, places and things which Google uses to try to provide answers to users’ questions. For instance, if someone searches for ‘Notting Hill’, information about both the film and the area of London would appear in a box on the right hand side of the page, alongside the traditional search results”. Singhal says that both of these bring Google closer to their goal of a search engine that knows what you want - without you even having to ask. One frustration that persists, however, is the barrier between Google and the data contained within the Facebook & Twitter networks. The data included in the social networks would be invaluable to Google, however these platforms remain closed to them. Singhal believes that such information belongs to the users and it should be up to them to decide whether these channels should be open and not up to companies like Facebook & Twitter. While it is an admirable ambition to provide such extensive search options to users, I can’t help but wonder just how comfortable the general public will be with it all. Privacy is always a hot topic and it is one thing that people take very seriously. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Google has recently been on the end of accusations of privacy breaches as well as an antitrust investigation regarding accusations that it manipulated search results to favour its own products. I’m interested to see what the public response would be to Google gaining access to both the Facebook & Twitter networks. Our first indication of how people would view such news could be the response to Gmail messages being included in searches. People’s feelings can be gauged to some degree on comment boards and social networks, and the response is suspicious to say the least.