Oct 22, 2009 0
Even as the marketer in me strikes up a joyful tune with Google’s announcement that it will soon be including tweets in searches, the part of me that still thinks there might be such a thing as privacy (or a right to it) is battening down the hatches.
On one hand, the potential utility of a more searchable Twitter to marketers is huge. Suddenly, you can data mine the zeitgeist in a way never before possible. You also have a new and creepy way to stalk potential hires online. Of course, you could do these things before, but integration with Google (and it’s developmentally challenged cousin, Bing) makes it so much more convenient. And for busy people, convenience is a chief determinant of how deep they dig when searching on a topic.
My privacy concerns, too, relate to risks that have always been there. I’ve tweeted a few things that I wouldn’t necessarily want showing up on Google; a lot of us have. For many of us, the bet we’re making is that no one cares.
When Google steps into a new realm and makes it searchable, though, it changes the game. There are two degrees of private: that which is hidden, and that which just gets lost in all the noise. Until then, much of what was said on Twitter could fall into the latter category. No longer.
A debate I’ve seen trending today concerns how Twitter will implement this. Will you be able to opt out? If not, will many people suddenly start turning their feeds private to avoid being louder than they’d like? And if they do that, how will it affect the utility of Twitter? Some of the conversations I’ve seen lately suggest that enabling Google search will be a psychological game changer for many users. People who wouldn’t otherwise make their feeds private will do so, probably resulting in a decline in overall usage of the service.
Maybe Twitter should take a look at their declining traffic and think about some of the moves they’ve made that have had a negative impact on Twitter’s status as a giant conversation (along with some proposed fixes):
- Getting rid of visible @ replies from people you follow to people you don’t was a bad move. Turn this feature back on, and traffic will increase.
- Some of the limits on DM are not well thought out. What if you could allow DMs from people you don’t follow? More usefully, what if you could allow DMs from people you don’t follow on specific tweets?
- And most relevantly to this post, maybe Twitter should look at offering more choice in terms of who can see your Tweets. The ability to make Tweets visible to some or all followers, while other Tweets are 100% public, would be a powerful counter to the growing perception that Twitter will somehow become less private once it’s searchable on Google.
Photo credits for this post: Blue Jay (Kenn Kiser)