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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Making Google More Open

Drake Bennett at The Boston Globe has a long article about how Google managed to remain “fundamentally likable”, as he says, while today being “a behemoth, with more than 15,000 employees and a market value as big as Coca-Cola and Boeing combined”. He mentions concerns that even provided Google sticks to its privacy policy and handles the sensitive information we feed it sensibly indeed, “government might compel it to turn over search information.” Drake argues “Google has so outpaced its rivals that it has begun to look like a monopoly” and goes through various different suggestions to make Google more open. Like having them make their search algorithms public. Or (my emphasis):

... an idea put forward by Pasquale of Seton Hall. In a few recent papers, he has proposed what he calls a “right of reply” to search results. If, for example, the top results to a query about an individual are slanderous or otherwise damaging to his reputation, that person, Pasquale argues, should have the right to put an asterisk by the findings that links to a rebuttal. (...)

Still, to other Google watchers, such measures would ultimately end up backfiring. A “right of reply” would be difficult to put into practice, and could end up being used by companies to ensure that their links show up on all Web searches that highlighted their competitors. (...)

To Pasquale and others, search engines, like the railroads and the telephone, are technologies that, because of their great importance, demand a level of public control and accountability, Google most especially.

In Google News, by the way, Google already allows people being talked about in news to add their own views. Another approach in action right now is that many results will be relatively diverse, showing say a more neutral Wikipedia entry right below the official homepage to a famous person. But it doesn’t always work like that. Search for google, for instance, and the top 10 (at this time, checked from my computer) does not yield any third-party result at all. You will have to click through to the second result page to see the first Wikipedia article, and even further ahead to find, for instance.

[Thanks Ianf!]


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