Google Privacy and Implications for Search

Much is being written about Google’s new Privacy Policy.  However, I would like to reflect for a brief moment on its implications for research.

Because Google is now standardizing its privacy policy across all Google Apps, it will possess details about your online life to even greater degrees. Therefore, the search results will be tailored even more closely to what Google knows about you from other applications such as gmail or youtube.

In many instances, this can be helpful.  For example, if you are searching “bass”, Google might list websites related to bass guitars if it knows you are a musician, or list websites related to the animal if it knows you like to fish.

However, this feature can be very problematic for student research. If a student needs a broad range of sources that are positive and negative about a certain issue, Google may instead list websites that tend to portray only one side of the issue, particularly if it already “knows” which side you agree with.  This leads to even more “silos” of information rather than providing a balance view of controversial issues. It is a concern to librarians, and hopefully to students as well.

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