Your Facebook "likes" might influence your Bing search results

Posted by Mark Raby

The next time you run a search for "2010 election" on Bing and see a skewed amount of Republican results, it might be because you clicked on Newt Gingrich's, Rudy Giuliani's, and Michael Steele's "Like This" buttons on Facebook.

According to an exclusive report from Allthingsd.com, Microsoft and Facebook have been rooted in talks about how to mine Facebook user data to optimize Microsoft search results.

In addition to providing an experience that manages to captivate users, Facebook makes advertisers and search providers salivate. That's because its meta data on what people like, what they're doing, and how tastes change are worth more than thousands of market research reports. But users have an expectation of privacy on Facebook and the social networking site has been trying to juggle these various pressures.

The discussion between Microsoft and Facebook would give the former a bunch of bulk, anonymous data. So Bing search results would not be specifically user-targeted, but overarching trends, potentially like politics and highest-ranked products, would be incorporated into the search results.

This report comes just a couple days after Google's CEO openly said he wants to be able to access some private Facebook data to improve its entry into the social networking arena. Google is nice enough to let Facebook access user Gmail accounts to import contacts and it wants a similar data exchange in return. But it looks like Microsoft may be beating Google to the punch.

But Facebook has a lot to lose if it starts selling out data to third-party companies. Earlier this year when the site began exposing more private user information than before, there was an intense backlash. Searching for "how to delete Facebook account" became the top query on Google. It was a sobering reality check for Facebook that it does in fact still need to please users. Their loyalty can't be taken for granted or manipulated.

Nevertheless, the veritable treasure trove of relevant information that Facebook, which has more than 500 million registered users, can bring to the rest of the world can never simply be overlooked.