Google’s Social Circle & Social Search May Not Violate Any Privacy Laws But It Gives Me The Creeps

Yesterday I noticed something new in my google search Results from people in your social circle for google social search. It looked like this


When I clicked on the link that said Results from people in your social circle for google social search it took me to a page that was just content from my Social Circle. I was a little disturbed by this. First I do not want search results from my Social Circle, whatever that means, I want it from everybody. Secondly, where are they getting this information? How did Google know who is in my Social Circle?

So like a good little librarian I started digging. I went back to the page initial page and clicked on the link for My social circle.


This took me too a page with a list of names that make up my Social Circle . There were a LOT of names on that list.  But how did they get there?


There doesn’t seem to be a way to simply add or remove a person either. Google seems to know everywhere I’m connected to these people. Even places I didn’t know or remember I was connected with them.


Frankly I’m creeped out. I do not remember giving Gmail permission to go through my contacts and correlate them to other sites.

Since I’m not interesting in Social Search I started looking for a way to turn it off. Guess what? There isn’t one.

The only option to not see Social Circle search results is to log out of the Google account (or avoid having a single direct connection linked to the account). –

Even more disturbing to me is I can’t find much of anyone talking about the privacy issues. Yes I know this information is already available on the internet, it’s the idea of someone or some company compiling it all in one place.  There is a big difference between it being scattered out there willy nilly and someone collecting an analyzing it.

It does not work the way the original video demonstration said it would. It claims you can remove a network like Twitter. Where? I deleted my Google Profile after all the Buzz brouhaha so I haven’t had one for a while now.

Another early video states you can block your chat list, where?

On my Social Content page it says there is 0 content from my Google profile (because I don’t have one?) Yet on my Social Circle page it tells me there are 145 contacts from links listed on my Google profile. What profile?

According to Google’s Social Search Features page:

You control who is part of your circle. If you want to add or remove someone from your social circle, here are your options:

  • Add or remove the person from the social networks linked to your Google profile
  • Add or remove links on your Google profile
  • Add or block the person in your Gmail chat contact list
  • Add or remove the person from your Friends, Family, or Coworkers groups in your Google contacts

If someone you don’t know shows up in your social search results, it’s likely that they’re connected to someone you do know. For example, if you’re following someone on Twitter, and that person is following five other people, those five other people are also included in your social circle. To see where each connection comes from, view the text on the search results page that says “Connected through [person] on [service].”

Again I don’t have a Google profile so where do I go to remove these links?

Frankly, this maybe the thing that finally drives me away from Google. Maybe there is a way to opt out, to turn it off, but I sure couldn’t find it.  It seems like the Buzz fiasco all over again but worse.  This time no one is paying attention.

More info:


  1. Reminds me of recent RWW article on Facebook’s continued disregard for customer privacy: Facebook May Share User Data With External Sites Automatically


  2. Part of my concern is they claim they are getting these contacts from my Google Profile, which I don’t have. So where are they getting them from ? Are they lying? Is it a computer fluke? More importantly how do I turn it off?


  3. Think it’s remembering your social connections from your old profile? Or reconstructing them from the profiles of others who are connected to you through gmail and g-reader? While I actually love this feature, I agree that it’s not clear how we can control our own connections easily. Moving people out of ‘friends, family, coworkers’ groups in gmail contacts might help.

    I have the added problem of having most of my info associated with a very old pre-gmail google account. But to synch with my droid phone, I’ve had to move info to my gmail based google account. I end up being connected with myself (in both directions) and having crazy recursive nightmares!


  4. I suspect its remembering them from my profile from before I deleted it. But that bothers me for 2 reason. First its not how they SAY they are getting my contacts. Second it appears that the google profile is the only way to remove those connected sites like Twitter. Well I don’t have one, so how do I remove them?

    I also don’t like that you can not opt out. The only way to eliminate Social Circle is to sign out of Google completely. If you can opt to only search within your Social Circle then you should be able to opt to search only outside of it without logging out.


  5. Also, it will be interesting to see how google uses all the social connections now that it’s purchased aardvark.


  6. Google’s Social Circle & Privacy – guess what you can’t opt out.


  7. I noticed this and lost it.

    As it happens, I use Gmail and its chat function for my Second Life avatar (but I haven’t added anything explicitly to my Google Profile), and the contacts listed were some (but not all) of my Gmail contacts that I’ve chatted with (or at least invited them to chat with me).

    Yes. Creepy. And so frustrating that I can’t turn it off.


  8. suzigurl · ·

    @librarianbyday GAH. I don’t need to know more about something I was sort of ignoring. #GoogleSocialSearch #denial #denial #EgyptianRiver


  9. WebArchivist · ·

    RT @librarianbyday: Google’s Social Circle & Privacy – guess what you can’t opt out.


  10. Everyone is focused on Facebook’s privacy issues & it drives me CRAZY no one is talking about Google’s Social Search


  11. Could your Social Circle be comprised of your Google Reader subscriptions? I don’t really use gmail but I still have a “Social Circle” – looks like the blogs I subscribe to via rss.


  12. elloyd74 · ·

    @librarianbyday Honestly? I hadn’t looked at it yet. You’re right. It IS creepy. (re Google Social Search)


  13. @elloyd74 and you can’t opt out! and it doesn’t work how they say it does. they are laying about where they get the social contacts


  14. elloyd74 · ·

    @librarianbyday I know–I read your post. It would make so much more sense to offer an opt-in to see the results of folks you hand-choose…


  15. elloyd74 · ·

    @librarianbyday …at the TIME of the opt-in. There might be ppl I’d choose in that case…


  16. @elloyd74 yep or even the option to turn it off or on while searching


  17. elloyd74 · ·

    @librarianbyday Right. Because “my social circle” ISN’T really my social circle–they’re assuming I’d want to see results from…etc., etc


  18. @elloyd74 and because I don’t have a google profile I shouldn’t’ have a social circle but I do


  19. bareftlibrarian · ·

    RT @librarianbyday: everyone is focused on Facebook’s privacy issues & it drives me CRAZY no one is talking about Google’s Social Searc …


  20. annalynnmartino · ·

    RT @librarianbyday: everyone is focused on Facebook’s privacy issues & it drives me CRAZY no one is talking about Google’s Social Searc …


  21. suzigurl · ·

    RT @librarianbyday: everyone is focused on Facebook’s privacy issues & it drives me CRAZY no one is talking about Google’s Social Searc …


  22. […] view is more in line with Bobbi Newman, who says: “Google’s Social Circle & Social Search may not violate any privacy laws but it gives me… This is a lot like finding out that you have a stalker – only this one isn’t human, […]


  23. It really creeped me out too – I kept getting results from a blog written by a girl who used to harass me. I’ve not had any contact with her for years, although we have some common FaceBook friends. I don’t want Google to associate me with my FaceBook friends-of-friends that I haven’t spoken to for years, especially if they’re people I hate! Besides – If Google associates me with anyone, it should only be with people I’ve interacted with through Google – Gmail, Picasa, orkut and so on. I don’t know if me and that girl have ever had any connection or friend-of-friend connection on any Google product, but either way, I find it kind of creepy for Google to suddenly tell me who is in my “social circle”, especially when they are people I haven’t talked to in years – Not even everyone I talk to is in my “social circle”.


  24. Facebook Smear Campaign Takes War Against Google to Defcon 2: Tech News and Analysis « · ·

    […] was trying so hard to raise privacy fears about — has been around for over a year. Even the links that Burson Marsteller included in its pitch were to articles that were almost a year old, including one about how the feature was […]


  25. […] and it wasn’t until after I’d tweeted it that I learned that the PR firm referenced one of my blog posts in their attempts to smear Google! Crazy and Weird. Especially since I’ve written far more […]


  26. […] lot of people have taken to speculating over the feature in forums and on blogs. Many seem adverse to the idea. Having searched the internet (ironically through Google which is a […]


  27. […] talked about this when I wrote  Google’s Social Circle & Social Search May Not Violate Any Privacy Laws But It Gives Me The Cr…. Google states they were basing my Social Circle and Social Search on my Google Profile, except I […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,061 other followers

%d bloggers like this: