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Who Can I Trust?

March 30, 2011

Call me late to the party, but I finally get social media. It’s a about trust. This “duh” moment occurred to me today when I was reading about Google’s settlement with the FTC for privacy law violations associated with its 2010 release of Buzz (was it that long ago?), the spectacularly silly social media platform tied to Gmail. Buzz failed to properly conceal personal contact information, including the names and email addresses of “estranged spouses, current lovers, attorneys and doctors”.

Now I do know that presently Buzz is only used by children (such as my 10-year old daughter) who are not old enough for a Facebook account. My daughter Lily (privacy violation!) does not have very many estranged spouses, current lovers, attorneys and doctors. Or perhaps she does, and I am just not paying sufficient attention to Buzz!

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Google is now allegedly releasing a copycat version of the invigoratingly ubiquitous Facebook “Like” button called “Plus One”. When you like (or ahem – “approve of”)  your search results, you will click the “Plus One” icon that will share your excitement and delight about these search results with your friends and associates in Gmail, Buzz, and Twitter (although perhaps not Facebook).

Now I think the Facebook Like button is fantastic. It is enormously reassuring to me that lots of people “like” The King’s Speech and Paul Krugman and Ashley Dupre. How would I have otherwise known that I, too, should “like” them. The trust that I experience because my friends (and enemies) have clicked the Like button certainly makes all the difference in my ability to judge which restaurant to dine at or which book to purchase. It’s actually very difficult to understand how we survived all of these years before the invention of the Facebook Like button.

So I am, so to speak, all a-twitter about how the Google Plus One button will stack up against the Facebook Like button. What Google says it has learned is that people no longer “like” to search Google for information because this information does not come “friend-recommended.” Instead, people now “like” to search in Facebook because the trust factor is just that much higher, given that it is “friends”, not strangers or enemies, supplying the information.

Well count me persuaded. We all know how intimately we know and rely upon our Facebook “friends.” And after all, as we know from Facebook, information retrieval really is about the recommendations for shoes and songs and tank tops and the iPad (“Like!”). No one would ever search Google for anything else.

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