Does Google Make Information Accessible?

The Word for this week is ‘piracy’.  However this post does not reflect upon this term.

The question of whether or not Google makes information accessible is not entirely straight forward.  Whilst the search engine does provide the platform for the vast majority of internet users worldwide to search the web there is a level of suspicion surrounding the way Google personalises search results to align with users.  Whilst Google provides organised information for our convenience, are they overstepping the mark by prioritising the information they think we want to see, or perhaps the information they want us to see.

 Eli Pariser, the author of The Filter Bubble thinks that they are overstepping the mark, and has expressed concern for the effect that Google is having on individuals performing as informed citizens.  He speaks of how Google search results are influenced by user, location, computer and browser.   He suggests that the personalization of Google is resulting in people absorbing information they want to see rather than what they need to see.   Effectively Google is shortening our information horizons limiting our potential to experience the world (Dover, 2010). 

 Media has been integral to the formation of society.  For individuals to function as citizens, they must have access to information, more importantly, the same or similar information in order for public discourse to form.  Historically newspapers were an important example of this occurrence.  With the personalised Google however, the opportunity for this to occur is potentially diminished considering that results are varied.  Not everyone is on the same page.

  Google always responds to criticism by claiming that its algorithms which align search results to user relevance are used to improve the user’s experience.  Greg Linden (2011) supports the personalised Google arguing that recommendations are vital for us to learn new things.  He suggests that individuals can’t search for things they don’t know exist.  Personally I can relate to this claim, I do however see the issue when it comes to information such as news and current affairs which create informed citizens.  If we are all being exposed to different pieces of information, how can we engage equally on matters within society?

  I don’t believe that Google is actively attempting to restrict particular pieces of information from users.  I do think that they are feeding consumers more customised results of information to make them more content with what they are consuming and thus more content with Google.   Others suggest that our information is being used to create personalised products targeted at us (Silverstein, 2011).   But should Google have the right to withhold our information to customise our navigation of the web?  At the end of the day the internet is a public place and Google is a corporation, surely they’re not going to offer people a service for nothing, there has to be some catch for their free service, and our information is it.

 

Dover, Danny (2010), ‘Google’s Unspoken Failures Are Limiting Your Potential’ Search Engine trends,http://www.seomoz.org/blog/googles-unspoken-failures-are-limiting-your-potential    

 Linden, Greg (2011), ‘Eli Pariser is Wrong’ Geeking With Greg, http://glinden.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/eli-pariser-is-wrong.html

 Pariser, Eli (2011), ‘Beware Online Filter Bubbles’, TED http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

 Silverstein, Barry, (2011), ‘The Good and the bad of Information Filtering’ http://www.revenews.com/search-engine-marketing/the-bad-and-the-good-of-filtering-information/

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