Google Knowledge Graph: This is why they changed their privacy policy

Google Knowledge Graph: This is why they changed their privacy policy

Summary: Who needs a social graph when you have a knowledge graph?


Google announced today that it was making drastic enhancements to search results using what it calls a "Knowledge Graph." Sound like Facebook's "Social Graph"? That's because it is, although as many of us Google watchers predicted, this is the first iteration of semantic search enabled by the sort of data sharing that Google outlined earlier this year in its new privacy policy.

While that policy irked a whole lot of people, we're about to see if it adds enough value to our search experience to make people forget all of that bad press. Users of Google Docs may already have noticed an offer earlier today to do research on topics found in our Google Drive (check out Research underneath the Tools dropdown menu in Docs). This is just a small part of the Knowledge Graph effort. According to Google's Official Blog,

The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.

Google’s Knowledge Graph isn’t just rooted in public sources such as Freebase, Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. It’s also augmented at a much larger scale—because we’re focused on comprehensive breadth and depth. It currently contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects. And it’s tuned based on what people search for, and what we find out on the web.

So not only does the Knowledge graph present results based on everything that Google knows about you, it also indexes key data sources on the web and keeps them somewhat compartmentalized from the rest of the noise online.

Google outlines three main advantages to this approach

  • Find the right thing
  • Get the best summary
  • Go deeper and broader

This approach, however, will more likely than not bring up all of the same privacy concerns that plague Google but don't seem to affect Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, or any of the other companies that collect large amounts of data on users. Unfortunately for those most concerned about privacy, there isn't really a good way to sort through billions of web pages worth of data without having some massively parallel computing match sites and data to your general needs.

This is ultimately why, in my opinion, Google will win most of its battles (and definitely the war) with Facebook. Sure, Facebook knows its users well. However, search, beyond all else, remains the killer app of the Internet. As we memorize less and look up more, store everything in the cloud, and rely on the web for everything from movie reviews to relationship advice, we need tools that can get beyond a really well-formed query. Google calls it "things, not strings", referring to the search engine's understanding of the "thing" you're looking for instead of the "string" that it has to simply parse and match by keyword.

Call it spin, call it subterfuge, call it whatever, but I think Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering, really nailed the message here:

We hope this added intelligence will give you a more complete picture of your interest, provide smarter search results, and pique your curiosity on new topics. We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the "Star Trek computer" that I've always dreamt of building. Enjoy your lifelong journey of discovery, made easier by Google Search, so you can spend less time searching and more time doing what you love.

Not one to trust Google? Don't worry, Bing will do this sort of semantic search soon, too. They just won't do it as well and, for some reason, no one will call them out on their data mining.

Topics: Google, CXO

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Yeah right bing will do

    Except it wont be perfect and only after google.
    • and bing will spy on you

      unlike google who protects your data.
      The Linux Geek
    • I know. Google Clones from Facebook

      and he thinks that's really great and innovative, yet if Bing copies from Google, it's just a cheap copy.
      William Farrel
    • Wrong. Bing already does this and is in fact way ahead of google on it.

      Bing is way out in front of google in both semantic search and just normal search results relevence. There partnership with FB gives them vastly more context than google has from g+. (see yesterdays stats about g+ being a virtual ghost town). Also Bing/MS have vastly better privacy policies than google.
      Johnny Vegas
  • Christopher, I found the moment you have to make an excuse

    for something Google came out with, it tells me you don't even trust the words you where asked to write.

    For one -, you (as usual) dismiss the original source that Google copied from, as the Google one is now the best of course, and two - you throw in a line like this at the end to justify something wrong that Google is doing -

    [i]Not one to trust Google? Dont worry, Bing will do this sort of semantic search soon, too. They just wont do it as well and, for some reason, no one will call them out on their data mining[/i]

    I can understand if the consulting job isn't going so well, its a tough economy, but that doesn't mean you should pimp yourself out to Google.
    William Farrel
  • Google is Losing ...

    ... me. Google has overstepped the bounds of what I want them to do. I want a fast search engine that doesn't track me or tailor my results. For years Google was it, but no longer. I've switch to

    I got fed up with Google right about the time they made it impossible to right-click and copy the result link URLs. Then they changed their privacy policy. And of course they've got a gazillion dollars in market capitalization. I understand they need to make a living, but I don't want to be data-mined. So I'm taking my eyeballs elsewhere.
    • losing

      I'm pretty sure Google is losing a lot of sleep over the fact that they lost you! Damn, I guess now they'll just have to do with the other billion people who actually use google services and understand from the very beginning that Google is an advertising company. Hence, why they need data from its users. Im sure duck duck go, does not rely on its users data and just makes money from trees.
      • Billions of people using Google+ ?

        I didn't think so.
        William Farrel
      • Hooked on Phonics

        "... the other billion people who actually use google services...."

        Seriously, learn to read.
  • The most amusing part of the whole thing

    Is that if anyone actually remembers the "star trek" computer he wants to emulate..I believe if memory serves, it went haywire a few times and tried to kill the crew. :) I think only the very foolish or the very clueless are not concerned with their online privacy and not understanding of the fact that this will to some extent, compromise that even more. The data has to come from somewhere. I'm not entirely certain why it's always necessary for commentary to become personal and snarky,when realistically we can all agree to disagree. I'm a "show me" kind of person. Just because someone with a Google paycheck tells me it's good stuff doesn't mean I inhale and breathe Google praises. I, like many others believe that Google has done most of what they've done by standing on the shoulders of giants and refusing to credit those early pioneers, but so has nearly every other company in the world, so it's nothing new. @ Wolf, We are all in the business of making money, but there are also business ethics that need to be considered no matter who you are or how big you are.Thousands of members of the country are currently reeling from having their sites slapped with Penguin by a company who is still foolish enough to--on the same day--show paid advertisements for link building and safe links with no footprint showing on the same page as the SERPs when you searched Penguin. They aren't going to be applauding much that Google has to offer for a couple more weeks.
    I don't think that we as business people should simply discount something out of hand. Personally I'm interested in seeing what the graph has to offer and if it is worth the loss of privacy and the new era of "all your bases are belong to Google" that it will usher in. It will make a fun new toy, and whether or not it is more than that remains to be seen.
    Robbi Drake
    • And don't forget SkyNet!

    • We become personal and snarky, because

      there really is no other way to let the bloggers/ZDNet know how we feel in referenec to whether we feel we're getting an honest assesment or something.

      We can up or downgrade each other's posts if we agree or disagree, but when we suspect outright fraud we can flag.

      They make sure we didn't have that option on the actual post itself, so we tell them the only way we can - in words.
      William Farrel
      • That explains a lot

        If you think that "there is no other way", that personal failing on your part explains a lot about your insistence on always going down that road.
  • And FINALLY the Computers will Think..
    Thanks to Google. COMPUTERS CAN NOW THINK..!!
    Here???s an under the hood look at the next frontier in Search, from the team at Google behind the technology. The Knowledge Graph is a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they're connected to one another. With this technology, Google can get you the best possible answers and help jump start your discovery.
  • Seems like a drastic change...

    Anyone know the impact this could have on search engine optimization techniques?
    • SEO impact

      Hi Sameer, there is a few things that may happen to SEO when Knowledge Graph rolls out:
  • Google's bubble is just getting worse and worse.

    I really do not want tailored search, I want honest search. Search just keeps getting worse from a social standpoint and Google is leading he charge.

    I have gone to DuckDuckGo for 80% of my searches and it amazing that I can send a search string to anyone in the world and ey can get te same results. Once you loose the bubble, your eyes are really opened.
    • So in other words you use Bing

      How does that open your eyes?
  • i go with google

    I search for UltraGridRow in Google, DuckDuckGo, and Bing.

    Google included results for both UltraGridRow and UltraGrid Row (which are completely different things, and I want the former, not the latter) but at least I got the link to the class definition.
    Duckduckgo stuck to the literal string so I got my class definition.
    Bing desided to be smater than it needs to be and only returned results to UltraGrid Row. It also asked me if I wanted to search for my literal string. No links to class definition on my screen - no good.
    So, I go with Google who is smart enough to honor my literal string, and also kind enough to tell me that there are other options to my search.
    • Re: I Go..................

      Me too, I've also switched to DuckDuckGo. I have, to the best of my knowledge, removed "EVERYTHING Google" from my 3 machines. Having Google on your machine is like letting the fox into the hen house to guard it.
      While your at it, why not invite the FBI, CIA, and your local police departments to set up headquarters in your living room.
      Orwellian 1984. Remember, Big Brother is watching and tracking "EVERY" move you make!!!!!!!!!!!!