Google Ruling: Search Is Always Biased

May 15 2014, 5:25am CDT | by

The European ruling on Google, that it must consider taking down historical facts about people and entities that they consider “irrelevant” if they ask, is of course insane. It adds to the evidence that legislation and rulings on technology are passed by people who simply don’t understand it. It could be useful for small businesses who’ve screwed up somehow, hospitals who’ve lost a patient through negligence – just appeal it and Google will be forced to consider hiding it from view.

Of course the items to which people object will still be online, just not traceable through Google. So someone who knows what they’re doing will be able to link to it through social networks or find it through other means, but we won’t bother the Europeans with this. I’m European myself and proud of it but guys, you’ve really messed up this time.

It does raise one misconception, though: that people have assumed they’re getting an unfiltered search in the first place. And frankly you haven’t been, for some time.

Based on your preferences

Users aren’t always aware that if they log into their account, Google will personalise a search for them. It means on the one hand that it takes account of where you are and subjects in which you’ve shown an interest before, which is generally a good thing. On the other hand I’ve known small businesses and fellow authors become suddenly crestfallen when they announce they’re on Google page one for their given subject and they know because they checked on their own computer – and someone has to tell them that they’ve reached that stage mostly because they’ve searched for their own details fifty times in the last week. It may be that the results will be different for someone else.

Armed with this information they can log out of their account and try a ‘neutral’ search to check their ranking, but even this isn’t going to be as independent as people might hope. It will be influenced by SEO and Google’s own criteria, plus changing algorithms. Only last week I was chatting to a company whose sales halved overnight because Google altered its algorithm and they fell off the search engine’s listing. Their company hadn’t changed, the quality of the product was still fine but Google had made a decision.

Nobody should doubt that Google does its best. The changes it brought in that affected my contact so badly were intended to stop people tricking the system and they worked admirably in most cases. My point is that a search on any system has to have criteria applied, and that means someone, somewhere has made decisions about these criteria on the searcher’s behalf.

Many commentators have rightly said that the new ruling in Europe is misguided. I fully agree and hope it gets overturned. However, entrepreneurs and individuals who are complaining that any right to be selective about how much of your history shows up in a search will damage Google’s complete independence is to miss an important point. As long as someone has to set parameters – and Google does a good job – there can never be any such thing as a completely objective search.

The Google Search Evolution

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

How genes affect Ebola patients
New York, Oct 31 (IANS) The Ebola virus affects different people differently, say researchers, adding that genetic factors could be behind this mild-to-deadly range of reactions to the virus.
 
 
Young heart can heal itself faster
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it to heal after injury, finds research, adding that the harmful immune cells from the bone marrow disrupts this process in adults.
 
 
Hubble captures 'ghost light' from dead galaxies
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) NASA's Hubble telescope has picked up the faint, ghostly glow of stars ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago.
 
 
How to chequemate your creditor (The Funny Side)
Cheques are dying out, a report says. This is a tragic loss of an ancient Asian invention - so I learned from the new Museum of Accountancy in India. That country invented that form of promissory note way back in the Mauryan period (321 to 185 BC), when Westerners were still evolving from jelly-like invertebrates in warm ponds.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Norway to send troops to Iraq
Oslo, Oct 31 (IANS) Norway announced that it will send 120 soldiers to Iraq. The soldiers will not "be in direct combat with the forces of the Islamic State (IS). They shall, instead, assist with capacity building of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Four die as plane crashes into building in US
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS/EFE) At least four people died when a small plane crashed into a building near the Wichita, Kansas, airport in the US, media reported. The preliminary death toll was confirmed by the Wichita...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Young heart can heal itself faster
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it to heal after injury, finds research, adding that the harmful immune cells from the bone marrow disrupts this process in...
Read more on Business Balla
 
German kidnapped in Nigeria rescued
Lagos, Oct 31 (IANS) A German national, who was abducted a week ago in Nigeria, has been "rescued", authorities confirmed. Ogun state police spokesperson Abimbola Oyeyemi said the hostage was "rescued" Thursday and...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Somalia's police chief is dead
Mogadishu, Oct 31 (IANS) Somalia's Police Commissioner General Mohamed Sheikh Hassan Ismail has died, officials said. A probe has been ordered into his death. The official unexpectedly fell and died in the course of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Hubble captures 'ghost light' from dead galaxies
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) NASA's Hubble telescope has picked up the faint, ghostly glow of stars ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago. By observing the light...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Jamaican discus thrower banned for two years
Monaco, Oct 31 (IANS/CMC) Jamaican discus thrower Traves Smikle has been suspended for two years for using a banned substance, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced. IAAF Thursday...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
How to chequemate your creditor (The Funny Side)
Cheques are dying out, a report says. This is a tragic loss of an ancient Asian invention - so I learned from the new Museum of Accountancy in India. That country invented that form of promissory note way back in the...
Read more on Business Balla
 
110 Mexican women pose nude for US photographer
San Miguel de Allende (Mexico), Oct 31 (IANS/EFE) As many as 110 women posed nude as a group here for US photographer Spencer Tunick, who conducted a photo shoot with the theme of Mexico's Day of the Dead. With just a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Gibson appointed England bowling coach on temporary basis
London, Oct 31 (IANS/CMC) Former West Indies head coach Ottis Gibson has been appointed as a bowling coach for England on a temporary basis. Gibson will participate in a fast-bowling performance camp in South Africa...
Read more on Sport Balla