Why Google Search Changes Are Not Eyed With Suspicion, But Facebook's Are

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Facebook unveiled its long-discussed "graph search" functionality this past week. It has been in beta mode for a while and finally has been rolled out for general use. The new search bar looks like the old one -- if a little larger -- but it adds a bunch of new ways to search and some intuitive functionality making it easier to find information.

For example, you can do a search for a specific keyword among your friends. So, you could do a search for "my friends who like Justin Bieber" making it easier to weed them out and block them. Kidding.

You can even go deeper and search for friends of a fan page who like Justin Bieber and a variety of other searches (related to Biebs or not, that's your call). It's a pretty robust system for finding out a lot about your friends, acquaintances and, for page/business owners, your fans, which is probably mostly the point.

Google makes changes like this all the time, yet when Facebook does it, it is often met with scrutiny and suspicion. Hardly anyone notices when Google does it and virtually no one complains. In reality, both want their search features to be expansive because they data they collect on the searches you make is extremely valuable. Knowing that you are doing searches for a specific thing makes it easier for them to target you with ads.

But, why when Google does it does no one seem to care?

It seems to me to be twofold. First, despite a massive push, Google+ is still largely ignored by the general public. As a result, there are still plenty of people without Google accounts, so when they search, those searches are relatively anonymous. Whereas on Facebook, you have to be logged in to do a comprehensive search meaning every move you make is scanned and tracked by Facebook's software.

Also, Google, from the beginning, was about making money and your searches helped them do that. The more you searched, the more data they had available for potential advertisers. We knew it, but we didn't care because they were up front about it. Facebook gradually began adding data collection, but with very limited announcement and, more importantly, with a startling lack of transparency.

Had they simply addressed it from the beginning and been up front about the changes, I seriously doubt anyone would have cared.

There is a third element as well. So many people share their entire lives on Facebook. For a large number of Internet users, Google is simple a search engine, nothing more, nothing less. Facebook is clearly a much more substantial part of the average person's life and anything that invades that domain feels revealing.

On the whole, I think the new Facebook search has potential and could provide some good information to users. It will be worth using as long as you know and accept you are being watching while doing it.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.