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Google Now Admits its Search Isn't Neutral

There's new evidence from Google itself, that Google's search results are not neutral, as Google has long publicly represented them to be, and as Google expects everyone on the Open Internet to be.

  • (Kudos to famed trustbuster Gary Reback for unearthing the core information that I spotlight in this post; it is from Mr. Reback's friend-of-the-court brief for the Open Book Alliance, which opposes the Google Book Settlement. Don't miss pages 14-16.)  

Google now admits that its search results are not neutral despite longstanding public representations to the contrary.

Fact Checking Google's New Privacy Principles -- Part XVIII Publicacy vs Privacy Series

Google posted "Google's Privacy Principles" for International Privacy Day and made a pretty sweeping official representation to the public in its announcement post

  • "We've always operated with these principles in mind. Now, we're just putting them in writing so you have a better understanding of how we think about these issues from a product perspective."   

Is this a factually accurate and fair representation of Google's past and current privacy practices?

If it is indeed a true statement:

Systemic Uneconomics: Financial Crisis Root Causes: Part III

To discern the real “root” causes of the financial crisis of 2008, one must probe beneath the surface and examine the health of the “root system” of our capital markets “forest.” The roots of the capital markets forest are sound economics; the natural market function of automatically equilibrating supply and demand and risk and reward, that is commonly appreciated as Adam’s Smith’s “invisible hand.” We generally assume that the natural market strength of the capital market forest’s root system ensures that all the trees are not in danger of being blown over in the crisis of a storm.


In the fall of 2008, we all were shocked to learn that the root system of our capital markets, that we had always assumed was healthy and strong, was actually frighteningly weak and brittle requiring the slapdash reinforcement of multi-trillion dollar emergency scaffolding of whatever material was close at hand, a TARP, bailout lifelines, capital sandbags, etc. -- to buttress the main market “trees” from toppling over, trees that the Government judged to big to be allowed to fall.


Google abandons any pretense of commercial neutrality

In a brief but very important WSJ story, Google abandons any pretense that it is a neutral search engine/advertiser. See the WSJ piece: "Google advertises its China position with search ads."

  • The story is worth re-reading a few times, because it becomes more disturbing the more one realizes all the implications of it.

The story reports that Google is doing something new in taking the top Sponsored Link ad position for itself in searches like "Google and China."

What this tells us, is Google, the search advertising monopoly per the DOJ, not only claims the top search result for itself for many searches in areas that Google owns content, like GoogleMaps, and Youtube, but now it also lays claim to the most valuable top advertising position as well to promote Google's public policy agenda. (If Google is willing to promote its China policy, why would it not promote its chosen political candidates? or its public policy positions of a variety of social issues targeted to users intentions/profiles that only Google happens to know?)

Google's behavior here belies its repeated representations that Google is a neutral search engine and runs neutral ad auctions. This should seriously concern the DOJ and FTC antitrust authorities, which are both investigating if Google is anti-competitively leveraging its monopoly position to dominate new markets that it enters.

Google's Energy trading proposal sounds eerily like Enron's disastrous derivative scheme

As the first expert witness to testify before Congress on what went wrong with Enron, the worst U.S. fraud/bankruptcy ever at that time, Google's announcement that it has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for "blanket authorization...  to make sales of electric energy, capacity and ancillary services," and for "certain exemptions" from reporting and accountability... is eerily reminiscent of Enron Broadband's disastrous efforts to bring swash-buckling, gee-whiz technology to the energy futures market over a decade ago. 

  • The hair standing up on the back of my neck tells me this latest scheme by Google to become an unregulated market maker in energy services could end very badly.

What's different between Enron and Google is that Enron was an energy company that entered into the tech and energy auction businesses, whereas Google is a tech and ad-auction business entering the energy business.

Deja Vu: What's eerily similar?

Google Apps' Security Chief is a Magician/mentalist; Why Security is Google's Achilles Heel Part V

Only Google would think it was a good idea to have a Director of Security for Google Apps, Eran Feigenbaum, who is also a professional magician/mentalistA ValleyWag post first spotlighted this frightening irony/bad joke. 

Let's review what a magician and mentalist does:

  • Per
    • A "magician" is: "an entertainer who is skilled in producing illusion by sleight of hand, deceptive devices." 
    • A "mentalist" is: "a mind reader, psychic, or fortuneteller." 

Security is very serious business. Given that Google arguably has collected and stored more recent private information... on more people without their meaningful permission... than any entity in the world... one would think that Google would treat security as very serious business too.    

People want real security, not the illusion of security. Security is deadly serious; its not for show.

What is most disturbing about Google's judgment here is that this is not an isolated issue undermining confidence in Google's committment to security; see the other parts of the series on "Why Security is Google's Achilles Heel," to learn how this is part of a broader disturbing pattern of Google not taking security seriously.  

Chrome is not an Internet Browser and not open, but closed to the Internet's Domain Name System

Since the EU-Microsoft settlement now will allow users to select an Internet browser from Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, Apple, and Opera among others, the next relevant competitive issue with browsers is if the browsers themselvesa are operating clandestinely in an anti-competitive or closed way.

  • In other words, whether or not browsers are non-neutral and divert the user somewhere against the user's expressed choice. 

As I have discussed before, Google's Chrome is not an Internet browser, but a gateway to Google's datacenter to browse Google's mirror copy of the Internet and track the user's every movement. 

Google: The Supreme Information Authority

Google's mission to organize the world's information also increasingly makes Google the World's self-appointed Supreme Information Authority. When politics, facts, science, whatever... are in dispute... Google's engineers and secret algorithms will provide the world with the answer, the "truth." 

Who needs a society of Cartographers when there literally is:

  • "The World According to Google."
    • See Google's latest post to see where Google is taking the world's information and the world's boundaries.  

The big implication of all this is why will there need to be any non-Google input into how the world's information is organized when Google's all-knowing engineering elite can much more efficiently decide for us all?

  • Information may be power, but Google assures the world that Google, would never would take sides on any type of information dispute... or could they?
  • Wait a minute isn't a ranking implicitly taking sides on what is the best information and what is not?
  • The subtext here is don't get on the wrong side of Google, or your information may get sent to "the back of the arena," as one Google Sr. VP so aptly put it in a prominent Google blog post.



Google's Search Engine Discriminates in Favor of New York Times -- per Ken Auletta, "Googled" author

Google's secret algorithm discriminates in favor of The New York Times per a Politico video interview with Ken Auletta, author of the new book: "Googled, the End of the World as We Know It."

Mr. Auletta explains what he learned about Google's secret search algorithm. It favors sites/results based on "wisdom of the crowds" (i.e. most traffic or links), but it also favors authoritative sites like the New York Times, because Google grants them extra ratings points that elevate them in Google's search results.  

  • Mr. Auletta goes on to defend Google for keeping the algorithm and the extra ratings points secret in order to prevent others from gaming the system. 

This information that Google proactively and specifically discriminates in favor of certain content over other content is a big deal for several reasons.

First, Google has long represented that it is a neutral algorithm where Internet users determine what ranks highest in searches, or in other words what content gets found and read and what doesn't.