Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cost of Google

Olivia Nellums is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at a community college in southern New Jersey. She blogs at The Librarian's Commute, and recently posited some interesting observations on Google that I thought I'd share here:

The Cost of Google
For the record, I think life with Google surpasses life with no Google.

But when reading The Case for Books by Robert Darnton last week, I had this tangential thought:

Google is not free. We act as though it is, because it certainly seems free (and fast, and easy), but there is a price nonetheless.

...

First
, when we search using Google, a commercial interest is deciding how information is shown to us. ... inevitably Google's ranking is strongly related to majority opinion, and situations are often more complex than the crisp results page implies. Digressing slightly, I think this is where librarians and other information professionals are still relevant.

...

Second
, I'm sure lots of people, like me, are logged into iGoogle all day, and so our web searches and online activities are neatly tied to our names and other Google services. This is a goldmine! Think of all the data that is precisely harvested with this set-up! In exchange for using Google's services, I blithely give all this information away.

...

For a while, I have been wondering whether Google will ever get too big. I worry that what it started out as (web indexer, page ranker, data miner) is fast becoming confused with something else (Truth Teller, oracle, gatekeeper). ... Even if we wanted to, I don't think there is a way to stop or slow much of this, but I hope the more we understand, the more we can choose to be willing participants (or not). I hope that is what Google ultimately wants, too.

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