Home > Uncategorized > Will Privacy Crash the Social?

Will Privacy Crash the Social?

After eight years, I am back in the Bay Area – and life is good.  The region is home, so I don’t have to deal with the first month of complete disorientation that usually accompanies a big move.  And while the streets and vistas are the same, there are new places to explore.  I’ve been relying on the advice and recommendations of friends – not a web search – to get me the skinny.  Why? Because when it comes to advice on where to eat or shop, I trust the word of a friend over an algorithmic result from a search engine.

This is the kind of thinking that is fueling the current revolution towards social search – a web search that combines “human” data with algorithmic data to get you the most relevant result.  And this trend is being fortified by a recent flurry of deals. Microsoft announced that Bing will include real-time results from Twitter and Facebook. Google just introduced Google Social Search, a tool that includes “relevant public content” (blogs, etc.) from friends and contact in your search results.”   Currently, social search is the belle of the ball.

As the social heats up, word comes of a new arrival – one that may just throw a wet blanket on this party.  Indeed, web privacy is a hot issue right now with the FTC’s Privacy Roundtables in December and imminent legislation from Rep. Rick Boucher.  Data privacy regulations will be particularly relevant to a technology that needs constant monitoring of user data to deliver real-time results.

As this all sinks in, the questions start a pretty dance in your head.  Should social search be differentiated from other types of web searches when considering a data privacy framework?  How much personal data is really needed to get the most relevant search result?  Should social search be treated differently on a GPS-enabled mobile phone? Is there a disconnect between the rising popularity of social search, and a recent study that shows that most Americans are not comfortable with tailored ads online?

Ah, the mind reels.  Time to get back to the dance.

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