Google is sifting through the photos and commentary on its blossoming social network so its internet search results can include more personal information.
The additional personal touches that began to roll out Tuesday mark another step toward one of Google’s most ambitious goals. The internet search leader eventually hopes to know enough about each of its users so it can tailor its results to fit the unique interests of each person looking for something.
Different people should start seeing different search results more frequently now that Google Inc. is importing content from its 6-month-old Plus service, a product that the company introduced in an attempt to counter the popularity of Facebook’s online hangout and Twitter’s short-messaging hub. Google’s main search results page also will start highlighting more content from an older online photo service called Picasa.
Other features will recommend additional people and companies to follow on Plus, based on their search requests. Those suggestions will exclude publicly accessible information about accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
The preferential treatment for Plus might amplify concerns about the objectivity of Google’s search results —a focal point of broad regulatory investigations in the U.S. and Europe.
The Federal Trade Commission, attorneys general in six states, and the European Commission are looking into complaints alleging Google has been unfairly exploiting its dominance in internet search to promote its other services while ignoring or downplaying pertinent information about its rivals.
The exclusive Plus recommendations in Google’s search results are “exactly the kind of thing that the antitrust people are screaming about,” said Danny Sullivan, an industry expert who has been following Google since the 1990s and is now editor of SearchEngineLand.com. “This is very un-Google like. It’s unfair to other services and it’s unfair to people.”
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