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Google: No longer a search engine, but an ignorance engine

Dear Lord:

Google says that these changes are being made to give a better experience for their users with more tailored search results, but one can’t help thinking that they also had in the back their heads that with this change they can serve targeted AdSense ads wherever you go and on their search results pages. Google already has a browsing profile of you, you might not know that, but they have had that for a while now, this might be a good time to get to know Google’s Ad Preferences.

What good is a search engine that tells you what you already know?

I understand the business model just fine. But since you can't search for what you don't already know about, "tailored search" is a recipe for increasing ignorance, not decreasing it.

Why don't we turn Google into a regulated public utility? Bag the advertising model, and, as a matter of "public purpose," run the servers like any other source of power and light?

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letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

that would be socialism! Or maybe democracy. I can't decide. But, who cares, it would give us back our search engine!

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

You’re not the only one who says so.

Bob McChesney, professor of communication of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, appeared on KPFA’s Against the Grain in March, 2011 (during the network neutrality fight) saying the following [at 46:56, my transcript]:

I think we have to change the way we think about the Internet. If we start from the assumption that this is a business-run area and should be run by whoever makes the most money, wins, we’re always going to be flat-footed and playing defense. We have to understand that the Internet is a public—a public utility isn’t the right word, it’s a public service but it should be understood as a commons, a public area where you selectively allow commercial work to take place in where it’s appropriate but the overriding logic has to be as a town square that everyone shares and everyone has rights and privileges not based on how much money they have. And that's the mindset we have to change which is why we wrote this article.

If people—and progressives have been as guilty of this as anyone—just start from this notion “Well, we’re going to make the case that the Internet’s bad for competition and we just need more capitalist development and competitive markets”—that’s really erroneous, that’s not the problem. What we need with the Internet is a much stronger sense that it works best when it’s operated collectively, when it’s open and democratic, when it’s non-commercial. That’s the most rational use of that technology, that’s the most revolutionary use, that’s the appropriate use of this technology.

What would that look like?

Well, I think for starters what that would look like we would get rid of these phone and cable companies who are just the biggest parasites on Earth, they're just—there’s crappy service, they charge us through the teeth, let’s get rid of those jokers—I’m not going to nationalize them, let’s just pay them for their wires, pay them off so they’re compensated and then they can go off and screw around some other industry—but get them completely out of the Internet. And make the Internet access a public utility, the right for everyone to have broadband, paid for by the government so you don’t have to—you need secret passwords to get in, wherever you live, it’s just a given and you end the digital divide immediately, you have complete access, I mean that’s a starting point, and then you have network neutrality. At that point then you look at all sorts of way to have things like search engines—I mean is that really something a private company should be collecting? Or a Facebook, a social media monopoly—should they be collecting all this data on individuals to sell to advertisers? That’s a debate society’s got to have.

Foster and McChesney, in their article, point out

The entire realm of digital communication was developed through government-subsidized-and-directed research and during the postwar decades, primarily through the military and leading research universities. Had the matter been left to the private sector, to the “free market,” the Internet never would have come into existence.

Submitted by cg.eye on

more:

Last summer, Google had to pay $500 million to avoid criminal prosecution by the US government. Using a convicted con artist, the feds caught Google aiding illegal online pharmaceutical drug sales. The operation—as described by the Wall Street Journal—is movie material.

The con artist is the man in the photo: David Whitaker. He presented himself as a Canadian drug dealers' agent to Google sales executives. The government suspected that Google was aiding these illegal pharmacies by illegally publishing ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances to US citizens.

They hit the jackpot. The Google execs greedily bit the bait and Whitaker spent $200,000 in government money paying the Mountain View search giant to publish these illegal ads.

So, they're trying to recoup?

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

My girlfriend and I have both noticed the same thing.

I've wondered if it's due to SEO spam links (increasing the level of noise), or deterioration since Google now effectively has a search engine monopoly (i.e. less incentive to generate high quality output), or...

jest's picture
Submitted by jest on

Sometimes I have to sign out of Google to get less biased results.

Other times I have to use *shudders* Bing. Sometimes the latter works better, believe it or not.

Submitted by Alcuin on

For those using Firefox, choose the ad-ons Ad Block Plus and 100 Search Engines and enjoy your surfing experiences much more.