Is Google destroying users faith in them as a fair and unbiased source of information?

Google appears to be preferentially placing it’s own results in their new Google Plus Your World approach. Some consumers have taken notice of the changes in search rankings recently. This perceived influence and public silence on the changes they have made harkens back to the BIG BROTHER days of George Orwell’s 1984. Perhaps that’s being a little extreme, but paired with the recent uproar over SOPA in the US, there is definitely a heightened awareness over control of content, and particular the feeling that the internet should be free of bias and control.

Over time this could put them squarely in a public relations crisis, or worse destroy the brand perception of Google as “owning search.” That is their unique selling proposition in the market. They need to guard that position carefully.

This could be dangerous territory. Back in the dark ages, the 80s, when I worked in print media at the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, we realized the line between advertisers and editorial is one to be respected. If you start to play with advertising influence, your readers loose respect for the editorial authenticity. This is really the same fundamental issue 2012 style. If influence emerges that impacts the value of search results, and that influence is there because they use your products (Google+) you loose respect of users.

I do however see an interesting and appealing business model in combining a search offering that considers your circles of interest and influence. Maybe Google needs to introduce a tab that allows both options. Either way they should come clean with what they are doing and allow transparency so the benefits can be appreciated. It’s pretty obvious how search results are different now depending on if you are logged into Google or not. I wrote about that and potentially how business could leverage it to their advantage in my blog last post.

What are your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Is Google destroying users faith in them as a fair and unbiased source of information?

  1. You’re so right that Google has to guard their USP. They may land in hot water with their new Terms of Service, coming into effect on March 1st. One interpretation I’ve read is that Google will have the ability to utilise content produced and uploaded to any of their services in any way they wish, including making derivatives of your work. What do you think, Mary? Is this a concern?

    • Their privacy terms are going to be questioned as are Facebook’s. A lot of this is being driven by FB’s run up to their IPO. I suspect that 2012 will be the year that “personal privacy” really becomes a hot button with citizens demanding that governments protect them. It will be a real push / pull of protection versus freedom of the web. Although both Facebook and Google can claim they are helping human kind connect or access information freely, make no mistake, they will be profiting handsomely from mining users data and serving it up to advertisers. The battle between these two titans will be an interesting one to watch!

  2. Facebook Timeline will be another interesting privacy challenger.With that tool they will be able to create a historical profile of you on Facebook, essentially grabbing snapshots of your wall, photos and life, based on posts, number of friends comments, likes etc. It will put a whole new spin on teenage angst with a permanent crumb trail in its wake. Right now that feature is optional for early adopters, but it will soon become mandatory with terms of service. I suppose it offers all sorts of opportunity to integrate sponsored content and further mine the worlds biggest data base for insights. As with many things, there will be good come out of it, and there will be a price to pay.

  3. I’m not sure how “derivatives of your work” will be covered under copyright legislation. Mash-ups of musicians work meshed together and uploaded to Youtube would be of concern to performers. As would original thought expressed through writing to a social media page like Google+ or an electronic book that was edited or re-purposed. Our current legislation wasn’t set up with this new world order in mind, so we’ll be left to interpret what we have in context or formulate new regulations. Of course Google is in the US and web is global. There are no national boundaries. The only thing I know for sure, is there are lawyers who will make some money sorting it all out!

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