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Google gets more personal with search results

Google's new personalized search pulls data from users’ Google+ and Picasa accounts.

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Google's new "Search plus your world," which launched Tuesday, pulls search results from users' social media profiles. (Screengrab)

Google just got even more personal.

The search engine — which processes two thirds of all searches made in the US — rolled out personalized search results on Tuesday with its "Search, plus Your World" addition, the Associated Press reported.

The site now pulls data from users’ Google accounts, including Picasa and Google+, as well as gives users the option to move back and forth between searching their own personal data and the entire Web. 

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The new feature has been automatically incorporated into all English-language searches today. If users do not want the option, they can switch it off. 

"We want users to have control over what personal content they can search for at Google. We don't want third parties dictating to users what they can or can't search for in Google," Google Fellow Amit Singhal said. "Based on the current policies at many social networks, users don't have that control."

Google's new search incorporates users' data into their searches, and bases results on a user's social networks. For example, searching a friend's name will bring up photos and links from that friend, as opposed to other people with that same name. 

"It's one of the most significant things Google has ever done in search," Google observer and editor of SearchEngineLand.com Danny Sullivan told The Los Angeles Times

Google put Google+ in place 6 months ago in an attempt to tap the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. This customized search is seen by many as another play by Google to compete with its social media rivals.

Facebook currently has over 800 million users, compared to Google+'s estimated 60 to 70 million users. Facebook also prevents its information from coming up in Google searches, and has an alliance with Microsoft's Bing to lure traffic away from Google. Microsoft owns a 1.6% stake in Facebook, according to the Times. 

Bing has been mining some of its' users preferences and other information shared on Facebook since May, the AP reported. Google's new focus on personal results is more significant, however, because its search engine is so much more dominant.

Allegations have been made that Google is favoring its own products in its search results; in fact, the company is already under an antitrust investigation

As Sullivan told the Times,

For example, instead of sending someone searching for Britney Spears to her website, Facebook page or Twitter account, Google will suggest her Google+ page, giving the service a "huge advantage," he said.

"It makes you question if Google is doing the best thing for the searcher or the best thing for Google," Sullivan said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/technology-news/120110/google-personalized-search-results