Natural Search Blog


Google Street View Attacked As Potential Tool For Child Predators

The Stop Child Predators organization has launched a campaign specifically targeting Google’s Street View as a tool that potentially enables predators to stalk and kidnap children more effectively.

Kids at the Park in Google Street View, San Jose
Kids playing at a park in Google Street View

A video on the site presents Stacie Runemap, Executive Director of the organization, outlining how Street View shows pictures of neighborhoods, homes, playgrounds, schools and pics of kids. She further describes how Google Maps can be used to plot distances from your doorstep to bus stops and schools, suggesting that child predators could use the service to plan attacks or kidnappings. The site elsewhere describes how to request that Google remove photos from Street View. (more…)

Privacy Policy Could Be Site Quality Signal

Privacy Policies & Personal DataSearch engines have increasingly gotten involved in protecting endusers from hostile and intrusive elements on the internet, and they’ve also become more active in internet privacy issues as consumers are getting more educated about issues surrounding data privacy. Ask.com has tried to differentiate themselves by being progressive about communicating their data retention policy and by enabling users to define how long data is retained, for instance, while Google has revised their data retention policy as well as worked to aggressively block or warn endusers about websites containing adware, spyware, and other exploits. Yahoo! even recently paired up with McAfee to assess and improve the safety of sites displayed in their search results.

One aspect of search rankings I’ve written about before is the theory of a site’s quality — a “quality score” very likely is applied by Google (and to lesser degrees, Yahoo! and Microsoft Live Search) to quantify how much they may trust a site for ranking purposes and for users’ safety. There are a number of factors which might feed into a site’s quality score (including Google’s human quality auditors’ scoring), and one major factor that could be used might be a site’s Privacy Policy. (more…)

Opt Out of Google Street View?

The guys over at Google Sightseeing noticed that the Google Streetview camera in Fairbanks, Alaska apparently got covered over with plastic bags, obscuring some of the images that were shot.

Google Street View Obscured by Plastic Bag

This led to speculation that some enterprising residents had perhaps purposefully obscured the cameras out of privacy concerns – though, that seems moderately unlikely to me since I doubt most people know what the car even is when it’s tooling around, shooting photos of places. (more…)

New Breed of People Search Engine Launches: Spock.com

A little startup called Spock.com has moved into public beta today for their official public launch – previously they were only available to a handful of invite-only beta-testers. Spock is to white pages what Google Maps was to yellow pages – Spock is a sort of people search engine that pulls data from many different sites together to automatically form personal profiles of individuals. The service also allows one to search for people who match up with certain criteria like celebrities, kidnapped children, billionaires, sudoku fans, “journalists killed in Iraq”, “Baptist women who love to travel”, etc.

Spock logo

Spock is one of a new breed of people search engines which pulls data in from a variety of online sources including MySpace, LinkedIn, My Yahoo!, Wikipedia, company websites, blogs, and other sources to compose these composite profiles which include photos, descriptions, links to people related to the person in question, and tag lists of common keywords. Check out this search I did for “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan search results in Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

And, here’s the profile Spock generated for the search engine marketing “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan's profile on Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

This automatic generation of profiles from other data sources, similar to a meta search engine, is not all that new, of course – ZabaSearch has been touted for doing similar stuff to compose info on people out of various public records, sort of like a poor man’s background search. And, ZoomInfo has worked to build a directory of searchable business profiles of individuals. IceRocket also used to have a metasearch engine that pulled in data from a handful of various singles/personals sites.

What makes Spock a bit different is how they’re actively composing these profiles from sources that really haven’t been associated with one another previously, and making them publicly available, for “free” (eventually paid for by ad revenue, of course). While the general public likely hasn’t been aware of it, the CIA or NSA has actually also been working on a similar sort of search engine system which automatically composes secret dossiers of information on individuals from a multitude of sources including credit card information, criminal databases, as well as many of the same online sources used by these web services like ZabaSearch, ZoomInfo, and Spock.

(more…)

Will Google Keep Minority Report from Happening? Eric Schmidt’s Chat with Danny Sullivan

This morning at the Search Engine Strategies Conference 2006 in San Jose, Danny Sullivan interviewed the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, in the conference’s main keynote session. Others such as the Search Engine Roundtable have reported on most of the content of that session, but one little thing Danny mentioned particularly grabbed my attention. Read on, and I’ll elaborate….

A Conversation with Eric Schmidt of Google

(more…)

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