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Research on the Free Web Tutorial: F. Things to know about Google

Watch Out!

Always remember: Google is a busine$$.

While their motto is "don't be evil" and their mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", their GOAL is to MAKE MONEY.

Implications?  They want to be as useful to the user (you) as possible, while also pleasing their customers (advertisers).  More on Google and internet advertising in module 5.

It is easier to say "I'm sorry" than to ask permission.  Google's mission is complicated by the ethical, social, and legal issues surrounding information use and ownership.  Their desire to make accessible all the information in the world steps on lots of toes.  Examples:

  • Google Books - scanned and made available piles of books for which they didn't have the copyright owners permission.  Oops.
  • Google Buzz (service since cancelled) - a social network attempt that went WAY over the line regarding privacy issues.
  • Any number of cases where they've been taken to court for using content that someone else created first (e.g. Yelp)

Feel free to research any of these incidents.  Just remember, Google might not be the best choice to find that information.

Beyond basic google...

Do Not Assume...

  1. That their regular search tool finds all the same things that their specialty search tools do.
  2. That their tools will work the same way all the time. (For example, Google Scholar works differently on-campus from off-campus.)
  3. That all tools are searching the full free web.  

The best example of this is YouTube.  YouTube only looks for what people have loaded on YouTube; there are plenty of freely-available videos on the web that you won't find on that site.  Did you know that Google has a video search tool for the free web?  And that you can  enter -youtube in the search box to exclude YouTube results?  Did you also realize that Google gives preference to YouTube (the content it owns, mind) in its regular search engine results? Hmmmm.... 

Beware, or at least be aware of, the information organizer which is also an information provider.  The potential for conflict of interest is huge and real.

Do Assume...

  1. That they might have a focused tool for finding a digital web content (news, images, video...)
  2. That the best result might not be in the top ten - make it a habit to go through several pages of results.
  3. That they'll continue to offer new and innovative things to keep their user base strong (and thus their customer base - advertisers - happy).
  4. That they're keeping track of your search history and coordinating it with your personal info to create a marketing profile.

Know that....

Many groups are keeping an eye on Google.  You can find information like:

  • How to prevent Google from tracking you
  • What it means to your privacy and security that Google has now linked all of your accounts (gmail, YouTube, search, etc.)
  • What lines of legality, ethics, and social mores they are currently crossing

 

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