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Never did I expect to write a screed with that as the title. But principles must be defended even when the actors are evil.

First things first: however reluctantly, I admit to using Google for some tasks. I use their Android operating system. I occasionally use their browser Chrome. Through Disconnect Search, I indirectly search Google for content. I've even used Google Maps a few times to get directions.

But let me be clear: I don't trust them a bit (or byte). They are directly linked to some of the US government's evil. Hand me a tinfoil hat and snidely claim conspiracy theory all you want, but there are enough data points to indicate their mantra "don't be evil" is bupkus. Even Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt knows otherwise and calls the motto "stupid." (Irony noted: I used Google to find those links.)

Edward Snowden's disclosures of the NSA's illegal activities like Prism prove Google is actively in bed with evil. I believe their efforts to encrypt data internally are no more than marketing PR to deflect being caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. To wit, Google just recently was caught installing an eavesdropping tool on your computer via its Chrome browser. It automatically turned on your computer's microphone and video camera without you knowing.

Oops? I think not. I would bet the US government and Google's security teams are one and the same and that backdoors abound. Why else would a federal court allow the NSA and Google to keep their ties secret (emphasis added)?

A federal appeals court has refused to force the US National Security Agency to explain any involvement it has had with Web giant Google, citing that a revelation could threaten the entire United States government.

To the topic at-hand, there's much brouhaha recently that Google is skewing search results. No, really? Who would have ever thought Google would do such a thing? Except that, at Stanford way back in 1988 when they introduced Google to the world, co-founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page specifically mentioning their "mixed motives":

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention", a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious. A good example was OpenText, which was reported to be selling companies the right to be listed at the top of the search results for particular queries [Marchiori 97]. This type of bias is much more insidious than advertising, because it is not clear who "deserves" to be there, and who is willing to pay money to be listed. This business model resulted in an uproar, and OpenText has ceased to be a viable search engine. But less blatant bias are likely to be tolerated by the market. For example, a search engine could add a small factor to search results from "friendly" companies, and subtract a factor from results from competitors. This type of bias is very difficult to detect but could still have a significant effect on the market. Furthermore, advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results. For example, we noticed a major search engine would not return a large airline's homepage when the airline's name was given as a query. It so happened that the airline had placed an expensive ad, linked to the query that was its name. A better search engine would not have required this ad, and possibly resulted in the loss of the revenue from the airline to the search engine. In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. However, there will always be money from advertisers who want a customer to switch products, or have something that is genuinely new. But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.

Here's what I have to say to Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca, Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu, and Yelp's data science team who wrote the paper accusing Google of skewing its local search results in favor of Google-created content:


Is Best Buy biased when they only sell products from certain manufacturers? Is McDonald's biased when they don't sell Burger King's Whopper? You're darn right they're biased! And it is morally right that they are.

Lest you forget, consumers are getting many incredible services from Google FOR FREE. Search. Maps. Email. Operating systems. Phone numbers. Like me, I'll bet you each use some of those. So you're going to blow the whistle in your Harvard and Columbia ties, claiming some moral high ground? If you're against capitalism, be honest and say so. If you're against competition (cough - Yelp), why don't you do what every other evil corporation does: hire a bunch of lobbyists to payoff government officials who will implement regulations and laws to stifle competition? Oh, never mind. I see you're already on that path.

I wouldn't care much if Google went the way of the dinosaur. There's plenty of competition anyway with search engines, etc. that respect privacy. But I'll be damned if I'm going to refrain from calling anti-capitalist ideologies and their proponents what they really are:


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"I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones." - Linus Torvalds, father of Linux on his hobby that ended up changing the world of technology

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