Just What I Always Wanted, Gmail in My Google Results … Wait, What?


How do you feel about private data in public spaces? Search Plus Your World was disturbing enough. If I do a Google image search for “ice cream,” it’s because I want some generic pictures of ice cream. I don’t want to find a picture of myself eating ice cream. I especially don’t want to find a picture of myself eating ice cream naked. (I don’t have any nude photos in my Picasa account, that I know of, but it’s possible right?) And I especially don’t want a friend who is using my computer to find a picture of me eating ice cream naked. And if I’m borrowing a friend’s computer, I don’t want to find their naked pictures either! (I don’t know any male models.)

And now Google has officially gone completely crazy. Yesterday they announced that search results will soon incorporate information from your Gmail account:

Sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web—it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email. We think you shouldn’t have to be your own mini-search engine to find the most useful information—it should just work. A search is a search, and we want our results to be truly universal.

Currently (thank god), this is an opt-in trial.

Does anyone want this?

My immediate reaction to this announcement is no, no, no, no, no. Google has become the king of fixing what isn’t broken – Search in Gmail works fine. If I want to find something in my Gmail account, I search my Gmail account. There is no reason to try to get that information from Google.com.

Again, this opens up huge security holes. What if I check my email on someone else’s computer (or, worse, a public computer) and forget to sign out? Then the next person who uses Google on that computer can potentially find private data from my email account in their search results? What’s next – Google Banking? Link your Google+ account to your bank account, share your statements with your circles, it’s all so much easier, it just works!

Need I mention that the Gmail results will occupy that same no-man’s-land to the right of the organic search results where Google is putting the Knowledge Graph? I still think my eye-training conspiracy theory holds water.

The Response

Opt-in or no, there have been some negative reactions. See this HackerNews thread – lots of concerns about security and the mixing of private and public info.

Martin Brinkmann of Ghacks calls it “nonsense” and says “there are too many ifs for too little benefit right now.”

Danny Sullivan gave the new feature a field test and wrote about his experience. He defends the feature from an online privacy perspective:

No one is automatically added to this program. In addition, it’s super important to understand that if you do enter the program, you are not exposing your email in search results to the entire world. Only you, when signed-in to your Google Account, will see any matching Gmail messages mixed with your search results.

But until Google uses fingerprint or retina scanning to make sure “only I” can see the results, I remain suspicious. People forget to sign out of their accounts all the time.

Would you use a feature like this?

More Web Marketing Highlights

Mashable makes my non-Facebooking self a little nervous by saying employers see people who aren’t on “the network” as crazy or dangerous liabilities. Yipes!

An AdWeek article explores why PR has embraced “visual storytelling” (AKA infographics).

Ken Krogue, in “The Death of SEO Part 2,” lists 14 approaches to creating “real” content.

Ian Lurie has made some stupid blogging mistakes – luckily, he’s learned something from them!

Oli at Unbounce puts 25 landing pages through the ringer and explains how he would make them better.

Also, check out the continued discussion on Larry's recent posts on why SEO's "suck at PPC" and why he doesn't believe that SEO value lasts forever. There's some great stuff in the comments.

Have a good weekend, folks. 

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Aug 14, 2012

I'm not impressed by it but then I'm not impressed by whatever Google does nowadays. I know many who miss the simple 10 blue links and nothing else on the SERPs. Now the results are all cluttered up. You mention gmail results in the SERPs being a privacy concern because people might forget to log out on a public computer. But mail or no mail in google's results, if you forget to log out, you'll be pretty much f***. Anyone would be able to access your full gmail and all your other Google's products.The best protection is simply to sign out of Google. Personally, I use very few Google products.

professional copywriting
Aug 15, 2012

It is hard to imagine why anyone would want to include their private correspondences in their search results. Aside from the privacy issues raised in the article how much of the data in a person’s Gmail account is really going to be relevant to their search results? This looks like a case of adding features for their own sake rather than because they will improve the user experience.

Nick Stamoulis
Aug 16, 2012

I find it hard to believe that the answers that you are looking to find in a search are in your email.  If they were, wouldn't you just search through your email?  I also agree that it seems somewhat dangerous given that lots of people forget to sign out of their accounts and use shared computers with family members/roommates, etc.  It just seems unnecessary for Google to incorporate this information. 

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 16, 2012

"Unnecessary" seems about right. I wish they'd work on improving the quality of results for long-tail queries instead of wasting resources on flashy features like this.

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