The leading Norwegian media group Schibsted will launch its new search engine Sesam soon. Some interesting news in Dagens Næringsliv: Links to articles from Retriever’s news archives (also Schibsted-owned) will be included in search results. The story actually opens more questions than it answers, so I’ll get back to this part later. Sesam CEO Mikal Rohde says the news websites will receive money each time a user arrives at a story from a search at Sesam. A Google News where the sources get paid per click? More information, please!
Less enigmatic, but intriguing: According to the newspaper, searching for a person’s name at Sesam will return not only web pages, but also address, phone number, overview over the person’s board memberships (!), photos of the person and articles about him or her in Norwegian newspapers the last 20 years (enter again the Retriever archives)! I can imagine the guardians of personal privacy over at the Data Inspectorate will be very interested in this feature. In his excellent book “The Search”, John Battelle builds a whole chapter around privacy concerns:
Did you know that Google knows where you live? Worse yet, did you know that Google will give out your address to anyone who asks? Who the hell does it think it is?
But Google seems innocent compared to Sesam’s plans. Indeed, what Sesam is planning is a feature that looks a lot like an automatization of CNet’s googling of Eric Schmidt – which (inexplicably) caused CNet so much trouble with Google.
Battelle is right in pointing out that “soon everyone will be googling everyone else”. It’s already happening – Norwegian news media recently told about employers googling candidates and finding unflattering party photos.
There isn’t a way back to innocence here – that is, to a situation without personal information available online. So far I haven’t seen a better answer than Anil Dash’s privacy through identity control. You need to be aware of what kind of information is available about you, and take control: “That’s the future. Own your name. Buy the domain name, get yourself linked to, and put up a page.” Still, only few people are there yet, so expect some noise around that Sesam feature.
What is also lacking in the news about Sesam is hard information about the international coverage the search engine will offer. Some search will always be local, some will be issue specific, but will users really scrap Google if Sesam doesn’t deliver high quality international results?