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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plato’s Justice: On the Conflict of Interest in Google’s Search Engine

“Google’s popularity was built on its ability to help people find just the right Web pages. Then came the social Web, led by Facebook,” Claire Miller of the New York Times writes. Then came the “fledgling Google Plus social network,” the content of which Google then included among other search results at its search engine. The idea, ostensibly, is to “personalize” internet searches. In addition to expertise on a given topic, relevant comments and even pictures posted at Google’s social network may be listed, especially if from a friend. The added utility is debatable, however, particularly as content from other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is more in demand, according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land. I question the relevance of even that content to a search on Google, given my searches up to now, though of course it is possible that someone’s post on X could be helpful if information on X is otherwise hard to come by. At the very least, Google ought to make it very easy for users to turn off the feature while at the search site.


The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.