Though Google claims the search process has been made better with its new social search, people don't want that type of personalized experience while searching, at least according to a new Pew study. Social search, in Google's eye, enhances the experience; they assume we want to see what our friends have posted on their Google+ profiles. It might make planning a trip more informed, for example. But, actually it's just clutter. The only one that benefits from the setup is Google.
The problem is, social search doesn't really provide the right kind of information. We learned this when we tested the new Google out a few weeks ago, getting very few relevant results for our queries. 65 percent of those asked by Pew agreed, saying personalized search was a "bad thing" -- not for the usual privacy concerns, but because "it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see." There were the privacy issues too, with 73 percent of those surveyed not OK with it on those grounds.
Even though Google claims to have a "better product," there's an irrelevancy issue here; the company, in part, brought that upon itself when it decided to leave every other social network out of its game. Those Google+ profiles don't provide the same wealth of information bigger-name social networks like Twitter or Facebook do, and Google social search only includes Google+. The other issue, however, is that when searching Google, people want the right answers to questions, from expert-ish sources -- not pictures of their friends' kids.
Google personalizes search in other, more subtle ways than just Google+, and has been doing so for more than two years, tracking sites we often click to provide "better" results. Social search brings personalization to a whole new level, though, increasing both the visibility and volume of targeted search results.
While users grumble, Google pushes forward because personalized results mean more direct advertising. Advertisers like that, and Google lives off of advertising.
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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.