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Is Google a search engine? The answer might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised to find out that Google is in fact not a search engine. At least, according to a recent piece of legislation adopted by the European Union it isn’t. The same goes for Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or any other site currently in existence.

After two years of negotiation, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union agreed upon the final text of the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive in December 2015. The goal of the legislation was to lay out the first set of EU-wide cyber security rules, but the initiative has received strong criticism already from many industries.

While digital technologies, social network platforms, and financial institutions have plenty of reason to take grievance over the legislation, search engines have the biggest bone to pick. The directive establishes a firm and specific definition for ‘online search engines,’ however that definition rules out any currently existing site. In fact, to be within the terms set by the EU, a website would have to break several other laws set by the European Union.

Here is the definition of a search engine according to the new directive:

“‘Online search engine’ is a digital service that allows users to perform searches of in principle all websites in a particular language, on the basis of a query on any subject in the form of a keyword, phrase or other input; and returns links in which information related to the requested content can be found.”

The primary issue with the definition is the key phase ‘in principle all websites’. Google, as well as Bing, Yahoo, and others, all index the vast majority of websites online, but they have a few boundaries. Google refuses to index any websites from the dark web or Tor websites, follows directions from robots.txt files to not be indexed, and complies with the European Right to be Forgotten ruling.

The Right to be Forgotten ruling allows users to request outdated, irrelevant, or embarrassing content be removing from Google’s listings. By following the orders of this ruling, as well as removing revenge porn and other objectionable content, Google and all other existing websites are ruled out as ‘search engines’ according to the new definition.

So what does this mean for Google and other sites which would be described by anyone other than politicians as ‘search engines’? Probably not much. Everyone will continue to call them search engines and any attempts from the EU to legally restrict Google from calling itself a search engine would most likely backfire.

If anything, it just goes to show that politicians aren’t the most in touch with modern technologies and platforms.

With the constant stream of information coming out of the online marketing industry, it can be hard to keep up with all the latest updates without missing some important news. That’s why we compile all the biggest stories you may have missed this week all in one convenient place every Friday. This week was short on big announcements from most of the major platforms (aside from Panda 4.0), but there are still plenty of small updates you might not have heard yet.

Facebook Gives Restaurants Easy Way To Display Menus

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Restaurants who are taking advantage of their Facebook profiles may have noticed a new feature yesterday, which will make it easier than ever to make their menus available to the general public. Facebook pages associated with restaurants can now upload PDF versions of their menus and display them directly in their page tabs. The feature is available worldwide within page settings.

Facebook Introduces New Default Privacy Settings and Privacy Checkup Tool

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Yesterday, Facebook announced some changes to their privacy systems that are intended to raise the ease of controlling how secretive you are with what you share to their site. The most notable change is that posts are now set to only be shown to friends for new users. Previously, the default setting was Public.

Facebook is also working on rolling out a new and improved privacy checkup tool for users over the next few weeks. The tool will walk users through a series of steps to review their privacy settings ranging from who can see their posts to what apps they’ve given permissions to.

Facebook has been making efforts to improve the privacy and security of users in the past few months, including introducing Anonymous Login and making it easier for smartphone users to see which audience they are sharing with.

Google Brings Okay Google Voice Detection To Chrome on Desktops

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Google announced via Google+ that Chrome, the popular web browser made by Google, that they have added the crowd-pleasing ability to say “Okay Google” to activate voice search by default from the Google search page. To set up the ability, you may have to click n advanced settings and check off “Enable ‘Ok Google’ to start a voice search.”

DuckDuckGo Relaunches With a New Look

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DuckDuckGo made its name as the search engine for those want user privacy in the wake of the NSA scandal that broke open last year, but it always suffered from a rough layout that didn’t favor public usage. All that has changed as the engine relaunched earlier this week with a new look and feel, as well as tons of other new features like maps, local search, and image search.

The new layout resembles a traditional search engine much more, while still championing users privacy, and improving on existing features while they’re at it.

DuckDuckGo is using OpenStreetMap for its map system.

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Image search results are shown in a carousel-style presentation by default, but you can also switch to a more familiar full-screen grid with the click of a mouse.

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DuckDuckGo LogoInternet security and privacy has been at the forefront of many people’s minds with the recent headlines about the NSA keeping data on the public’s online activity, and the issue has had subtle affects on search engines. We’ve seen a small group of searchers migrating to search engines with stricter privacy policies. Of course, those who are truly outraged by the NSA news would expect to see a pretty large shift, but so far the change has been slow. But, it is picking up momentum.

More and more people are learning about how Google actually decides which results to show you, as an individual, and many are a little concerned. While Google sees the decision to collect data on users as an attempt to individually tailor results, a few raise their eyebrows at the idea that a search engine and huge corporation is keeping fairly detailed tabs on the internet activities of users. The internet comes with an assumption that our activity is at least fairly private, though that notion is getting chipped away at daily. But, there is still the widespread assumption that our e-mails or simple search habits are our business alone, an assumption that is also being proved wrong.

These privacy issues have a fair number of people looking for search engines that keep our searches completely anonymous and don’t run data collection processes. The most notable solution people seem to be moving to is DuckDuckGo.com, a search engine whose privacy policy claims will not retain any personal information or share that information with other sites. The search engine has been seeing a traffic rise by close to 2 million searches per day since the NSA scandal broke.

There are numerous debates surrounding these issues. Political discourse focuses on the legality and ethical aspects of the government and large corporations working together to collect information on every citizen of the United States (other companies included in the NSA story include Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft). But, as SEO professionals, the bigger question is the ethical and practical reality of individually tailored results which rely entirely on data collection.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the ads on the edges of websites, you’ve probably noticed that the ads are loosely based on your personal information. The ads reflect your gender, age, location, and sometimes loose search histories. The ads you are shown are chosen based on information your computer relays to almost every site you access. Google acts the same way, but they collect this data and combine it extended data of your search history to deliver search results they believe are more relevant to you.

There is a practicality to this. We all have fine tuned personal tastes, and innately we desire for search engines to show us exactly what we want with the first search result, every time. While poll responses say that the majority of people don’t want personalized search results, are online actions belie our true desires for efficient search. The best way to do this is to gather data and use the data to fine-tune results. On a broad scale, we don’t want results for a grocery store in Los Angeles when we are physically situated in Oklahoma. On a smaller scale, we don’t want Google showing us sites we never go to when our favorite resource for a topic is a few results down the page.

In this respect, the move towards search engines like DuckDuckGo is actually a step back. These privacy-focused search engines are essentially acting how Google used to. They use no personal information, and simply try to show the best results for a specific search. It is a trade of privacy for functionality, and this could possibly explain the slow uptake or migration to these types of search engines. But, people are moving.

The longer the NSA story stays in the news, the more searches DuckDuckGo receives, and this could potentially have a significant affect on the search market in the future. The question is, do we want to sacrifice personal privacy and assumed online anonymity for searches that match our lives? Andrew Lazaunikas recently wrote an article on the debate for Search Engine Journal. He admits DuckDuckGo delivers excellent, unbiased results, but in the end, “when I want to know the best pizza place or car dealer in my area, the local results that Google and Bing shows are superior.”

Lazaunikas isn’t deterred by the aspect, and notes, “I can still get the information I need from DuckDuckGo by modifying my search.” He ends his statement by vowing to use DuckDuckGo more in the future, but the question is whether the public at large will follow. For the moment, it seems as though most people prefer quick easy searches and familiarity to trying out these new search engines.