4 ways to take control of Google’s Social Search functions

Google sparked controversy on Tuesday with the announcement of a major search update that includes content from its budding social network.

In the announcement posted on Google’s blog, Google FellowAmit Singhal says, “Search is still limited to a universe of Web pagescreated publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’rechanging that by bringing your world, rich with people and information,into search.”

The new search capability, which Google calls “Search plusYour World,” will introduce three new features that put its socialcomponent–and information from your network–front and center. Theyinclude the following:

-Personal Results. This will feature information from your Google+photos and posts–both your own and those shared specifically withyou–that only you will be able to see on your results page when loggedinto your Google account.

-Profiles in Search. You’ll see this both in autocomplete and results,which will display people you’re close to or might be interested infollowing.

When you search for a friend’s name–or just the first few letters ofit–Google will display a personalized profile prediction inautocomplete. Selecting that friend will take you his or her resultspage, which will include information from the Google+ profile and Webresults that might be related to them.

-People and Pages. Google says this feature will help you find people’sprofiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area ofinterest, and enable you to follow them with a few clicks.

For example, if you search for a topic such as sports, you might seepeople who discuss this topic frequently on Google+. You can thenconnect with them on Google+.

Experts are already raising antitrust concerns because withthesechanges, information from Google+ can appear higher in search resultsthan information from other Web sites.

Here are four things you need to know about Google’s new social search,including privacy options and how you canpersonalize it.

1. No one can see your privatecontent.
Google’s new “Personal Results” feature lets you search all your owncontent, as well as content shared with you by your friends. Resultscan include Web pages, Google+ posts and photos–both uploaded toGoogle+ or Picasa–but they’re visible only to you, unless you’veshared them.

When you perform a search, you can check the visibility of a piece ofcontent by looking at the link that appears beside each result. Forphoto results, just hover over the photo. Each will be marked either”Public,” “Limited,” or “Only you.”

To change the settings of your photo albums or posts, click “Edit” onyour Photos and Posts pages to update your preferences.

If, for example, you uploaded a photo album and shared it with three ofyour closest friends, only they can see these pictures in their ownpersonal results page.

2. You don’t have to see personalresults.
If you’re logged into your Google account, you’ll always see personalresults. There are two ways to bypass this, though. First, you can logout of your account, then perform a search. Or, you can turn offpersonal results altogether.

To turn off personal results, navigate to the top-right of your searchresults page and click the globe icon. This will prevent you fromviewing personal results. Click the person icon to enable it.

If you’re not seeing personal results and you want to, check to seewhether you’re using SSL search–your network administrator may haveblocked it. Other possible reasons: You’re using Google in a languageother than English, your browser is outdated or you’re searching with afiltering option other than “Everything” or “Images.”

3. You can manage the Google+content that appears in search results.
If someone’s content is consistently appearing in your personalresults, there are a few things you can do to prevent it.

First, you can remove that person from your Circles. Do this byclicking the Circles icon in your Google+ account and finding thatpersons name. Then, click “Remove” at the top of the window.

You can also choose to ignore that person, which can be done from the”People who have added you” tab while editing your circles.

Lastly, you can block that individual person, which means he or shewill be unable to contact you or view your Google+ profile. You canalso do this from the edit screen of your Circles page.

4. You don’t have to appear inautocomplete lists.
By default, your Google profile will appear in Google search results.If you don’t want your Google profile to appear in anyone’sautocomplete list, you can choose not to have your profile indexed bysearch engines.

To do this, sign in to your Google+ account, then click “Edit profile.”On the “About” tab, click the “Profile discovery” section. Then,uncheck “Help others discover my profile in search results” if you wantto prevent search engines from indexing your profile. Then click “Save.”

Do note, however, that anyone who has your profile URL will still beable to view it. And even if you edit the Profile discovery sectionit could take a while for the change to appear across various searchengines.