As a follow-up to the post on Google Picasa’s facial recognition software, there are other new potential Google products that are raising privacy concerns.
A Google spokesperson announced this week a patent application that will rank social network users based on their influence, measured by metrics that would include how many people visited their profile, number of friends, and how active they were on the site.
The product would even track how frequently people post on sites and how successful they are in getting others to read or watch things that they post. Ranking could also be based on the Google’s patented PageRank algorithm.
Top ranked individuals would then be targeted for special advertisements based on observed content.
David Harry of HuoMah identifies four distinct Google patents that would accomplish this:
- Network Node Ad Targeting – filed Dec 2006 / published July 3rd 2008
- Open Profile Content Identification – Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
- Related Entity Content Identification – Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
- Custodian based content identification – Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
Google Australia spokesman Rob Shilkin said that there’s no cause for alarm quite just yet,
We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t.
Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.
It’s expected that the new system could give Google a competitive advantage over Microsoft in online advertising. Heather Green of BusinessWeek indicates that Google has had financial difficulty monetizing from social networks in the past.
But with every threat there is also an opportunity. Lawyers actively engaging in social media with large networks might also be able to directly affect search engine rankings for legal related content, increasing their worth to clients and law firms alike.