Google changed the way its search works yesterday by heavily integrating Google+ social media content into its search engine results. Now, advocacy groups are up in arms about potential invasions of user privacy. What, like you didn’t see this coming.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center announced today that it is considering filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding Google’s new “Search, Plus Your World”. Specifically the group believes Google’s actions violate antitrust statutes by exploiting its power in the search sector to better compete in social networking. As EPIC’s executive director, Marc Rotenberg, points out, “Google is an entrenched player trying to fight off its challenger Facebook by using its market dominance in a separate sector.”
Rotenberg goes on to say, “Although data from a user’s Google+ contacts is not displayed publicly, Google’s changes make the personal data of users more accessible” which could leave it vulnerable to tampering by malicious users. Granted, while Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which has content agreements with Facebook, employ’s its social information source in a similar manner, Google’s overwhelming dominance in search — handling nearly two-thirds of US queries — puts it under increased scrutiny. To be fair, though, Facebook currently has about 800 million users and a track record of stepping all over their privacy, while Google+ has just 40 million users.
What do you think? Is Google really overstepping its bounds by including opt-out social information in its search results, or is this another case of a self-appointed internet sheriff tattling to regulators about a company’s actions that it disagrees with? [LA Times]