Google favouring Wikipedia data above that of it’s own organic results? Hmm.
Look. I understand that Google is probably only trying to be helpful, but I was a bit creeped out when I was searching for something and found that a new sidebox popped up on the right side of the results, showing a summary and various personal details of the person I was looking for. What I hadn’t expected to see was personal information such as their spouse’s name and any children they might have.
While somebody’s wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever may be public knowledge (the information comes from Wikipedia), what I do find more disturbing in that in some cases when the public figure has children, their names are listed. What if the person’s sexual orientation or other information they do not want to be so publicly available listed shows up in the summary as well? What criteria does Google use in deciding what information to display?
As the bulk of the information comes from Wikipedia, providing the page isn’t locked – anybody can edit the entry that’s shown in this sidebox. I’ve seen entries where the main image comes from another source other than Wikipedia (see Jane Goldman’s entry below – the image is different to Wikipedia’s and is actually considerably racier, ooer-missus).
Additionally Google+ info is also used if that person has a Google account/Google+ account. Who knows what other sources Google will tap into for this new sidebox system in the future? Will we see their tweets? Will we see their Google+ posts? Will it directly link to their personal blogs, web sites, businesses, agents, etc?
The potential headache for the subject (or their family) is enormous. Since the information comes from multiple sources and placed in a single box, if any part of the information (or image) is wrong, or potentially libellous, it’s means extra effort on the part of the subject (or their PAs/agents) to sort it out. As Google now displays the content directly alongside the search results, I can just see silly hacks taking whatever information listed as gospel without doing any further checks on it’s accuracy. It’s bad enough dealing with Wikipedia defacement directly, but now that Google is using this information within it’s results, I see a big disaster looming.
I don’t know how the sidebox information is editorially controlled (e.g. how much from Wikipedia is directly taken – it seems to vary from person to person). I don’t know how long that information is cached for. I cannot find any information on Google about this special sidebox. I don’t even know how you can disable this or if you’re the subject concerned, how to opt out.
Google is trying to be helpful, yes, but I really see this as being very creepy and very wrong. Google has already mucked things up with celebrities on Google+ when it introduced Events (in which hundreds of invitations flooded their accounts from the great unwashed public which annoyed the celebs a fair amount).
A few examples follow.
Andrew Stanton, director of John Carter and many Pixar movies:
Neil Gaiman, writer:
Jane Goldman, writer: