Google has started testing a new feature that will allow personal emails from a user’s Gmail account to show up in search engine results.  The idea behind the feature is that a user’s search query will not only contain the results from the public web, but also from their personal Gmail account. This means that recommendations from friends or information about restaurants other venues may become the best search results when queried in the Google search engine.

Gmail in personal search will add email results to search engine queries.

Gmail in personal search results
is currently only available by opting in to the field test.  Google promises that personal email data will only be seen by the owner but the service still raises many privacy concerns.  Gmail already allows for advertisements to target individuals based on the context of their inboxes but search integration will mean this information is thoroughly indexed on a regular basis in much the same way as websites. Google has already come under scrutiny from the FTC in recent days due to tracking cookies used without permission on private computers.  As Google integrates more of its services into a single connected platform the potential for privacy violations and security breaches will grow.

Privacy risks and targeted advertising aside it’s easy to see how the added feature could benefit users with more relevant search results.  The question is will users consider the benefits worth the inherent risks? Furthermore, if users do accept the risks will Google be able to keep up their end of the bargain and protect user data from falling into the wrong hands?

If you would like to learn more about Gmail in personal search results you can view the program here.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department