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Questioning our trust in Google


Here are some interesting points which I found on Robin Good s MasterNewMedia post, which quotes from a paper written by a PhD student, Lee Shaker, questioning Google s media coverage and inquiring if profitability is the possible foundation of trust, is Google trustable?

The paper explores the role media play in shaping the relationship of information, privacy, and trust between Google and the public. And the concluding paragraph is certainly interesting:

In reaching the conclusion that the coverage of Google relates primarily to the company s corporate fortunes, one wonders if trust placed in the company may be based on the wrong qualities.

If profitability is the foundation of trust, then Enron looked like a stalwart of twenty–first century America, until it was revealed that the profit reports its reputation was based on were fraudulent.

In other words, overly positive coverage of Google based on earnings reports and share prices does not promote a balanced understanding of the company. Without such knowledge, individuals misplace trust to some extent, exposing themselves to information risks unknowingly.

This is just a snipped from the concluding paragraphs of the paper. Check out the whole paper and make up your own mind.

Photo credit: Aces4hire

There

  1. Anonymous Anonymous | Wednesday, May 24, 2006 5:16:00 PM |  

    The very foundations of the company are already based on the wrong qualities; this is precisely because of world economics. Basically neo-liberal economic markets are amoral (and since neo-liberalism is the dominant economic paradigm, I think it is safe to assume that Google wants to please its shareholders). However on the other hand maybe it is a good indication, in that if the company is in fact profitable it means that people are happy to use it and it is an indication of their choice to use it (therefore at some stage it had to have had good information). But it is dangerous ground to link profitability and trust.

  2. Blogger Wallfish | Friday, May 26, 2006 11:15:00 AM |  

    It is very dangerous ground to link Profitability and trust. Google's shareholder structure is such that the CEO Eric Schmidt and the two founders Mssrs. Page and Brin own 51% of the company and therefore the main say in the goings on.

    What wrong qualities is the company based on anonymous? Honesty? Transparency? Providing information to the world and making it useful? These all seem very wrong indeed.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | Friday, May 26, 2006 12:26:00 PM |  

    Wallfish, the article is about profitability and trust with regard to information? As
    well as questioning the validity of the information based on profitability as an
    indication of trust. Ergo how can profitability indicate trustworthiness of information?
    Vis-à-vis, your argument is makes me feel that Google is the most trustworthy company on
    the planet, in fact I now feel that all the information is 100% trustworthy, because
    shareholders would put profits aside to make sure that information is accurate! Please
    all shareholders? care about profits, that is why the very foundations are wrong and
    Google can never fully be trusted (because profits matter first and foremost and other
    things well they come second on the list). That's capitalism for you!

  4. Blogger Wallfish | Monday, May 29, 2006 11:41:00 PM |  

    Anonymous, Google was founded first and foremost on providing a more relevant and accurate information platform. Just because they found a way to monetise this does not mean that it matters first and foremost. We need only look toward the actions of the founders and the CEO to prove this, for example:

    The management's staunch belief in dissonance toward the NYSE.
    The management's belief in constantly making a better product ie: one that provides a better quality of info at a faster rate.
    Google's move toward resdistributing the wealth through Google Grants.

    All of these aspects are counter to what you are saying. If you look closer at Google's adwords structure you will find an element called Quality Score which is a combination of search query relevancy, Click through rate and finally (a concession) cost per click.

  5. Anonymous Maureen | Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:39:00 AM |  

    Google is like an independent video store taken over by Blockbuster. They have a slightly larger "selection," but independent and foreign films have been moved to the basement, which is flooded and full of rats—as user-friendly as search results beyond #300. Why bother when there are six hundred shiny copies of Gigli up front?

    - Walter E. Kurtz

  6. Blogger Carlz | Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:24:00 PM |  

    I read what I thought was an interesting thing on www.instapundit.com today about Google - which doesn't do much for the people-orientated argument...seems a lot of Americans were unimpressed...

    "JONAH GOLDBERG ON GOOGLE: "It's kind of sad. They change their homepage logo for all sorts of holidays and occasions. Just last week they paid tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. But Memorial Day doesn't seem to rate anything at all."

    Its also quite interesting how Google has now created an expectation with regard to their logo and certain holidays/events...

  7. Anonymous Vincent Maher | Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:37:00 AM |  

    Wallfish, what about the management's decision to censor in China on behalf of an oppressive regime (for the sake of the buck) and their smokescreen at home about releasing search terms to the government?

    Double standards if you ask me.

  8. Blogger Wallfish | Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:01:00 PM |  

    Vincent, I'm sure you know what a blog is seeing as you post on one regularly. Why not try looking at the official Google Blog for answers, as a favour I have inserted the URL in case you don't know how to search for it:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/

  9. Blogger Wallfish | Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:02:00 PM |  

    And while we're Google bashing, I might just ask us to revert to the original argument..which was based on profitability and trust? Remember that...7 comments ago? Or have we conceded?

  10. Anonymous Vincent Maher | Thursday, June 01, 2006 2:56:00 PM |  

    Since when was profitability a moral category? And I think trust is answered by the fact that the purported transparency of Google results has been shown up for the contruction that it is with the China debacle.

    In fact, your two categories demonstrate what Google will give up in trust in favour of profitability. Since you started working for Google you seem to have lost all critical faculties.

  11. Blogger Wallfish | Thursday, June 01, 2006 5:41:00 PM |  

    Vincent,

    are you prepared to share what the Google blog says about China? Profitability is not a moral category, I never argued as such. In fact, my line of argument was along the lines of the two aspects having a very distant relationship that is outside of the moral playground. Has Google given up trust in favour of profitability? The majority of Internet searchers still give their trust to an entity that has just happened to monetise a section of itself in order to carry on existing.

    On a personal note: my working for Google has by no means numbed my critical faculties, on the contrary I feel they are being sharpened more than at the rumour/opinion based institution I previously inhabited. When members of the Rhodes community resort to slagging off an entity of which they have little knowledge other than a simple homepage it becomes a sad day indeed. Indeed, in terms of research, the grumbling thunder clouds of ignorance ring true when the head of the New Media Lab cannot be bothered to read a blog of an entity whose mission it is to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

  12. Blogger Gregor | Thursday, June 01, 2006 6:40:00 PM |  

    Let the breastfeeding begin. My post specifically was about an academic paper written by a Ph.D. candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication.

    Once again, as I mentioned in my post: “The paper explores the role media play in shaping the relationship of information, privacy, and trust between Google and the public.”

    Please read the article before jumping to self prognosed ideas.

    The researcher has analysed a variety of published articles and within these articles, “it is clear that a dominant narrative exists in which Google is portrayed as an innovative and extremely successful company.”

    “…this basic descriptive data yields a picture of the stories being reported about Google….While there are some articles that discuss the products and technology that Google offers, this is not a primary focus of the pieces examined. There are even fewer stories dedicated to the impact of the company.”

    “A Harris Interactive poll of over 2.400 Americans from July, 2005 found that the Internet was the most trusted source of information about a major purchase — aside from spouses (Herring, 2004). As a primary purveyor of this information, Google doubtlessly benefits from this high level of trust.”

    “As long as this coverage continues to have a positive tenor, Google reaps the reward of untold free, positive publicity. As of now, this narrative poses Google as a tremendously successful and innovative company — qualities that burnish the company’s brand and technological profile. To the extent that this image is based largely on strong financial performance and prospects and not on critical assessments of the company’s range of activities, trust may be stimulated in the audience somewhat erroneously.”

    “Articles discussing the potential downside of Google may be dismissed as conspiracy theory — not news.”

    “In other words, overly positive coverage of Google based on earnings reports and share prices does not promote a balanced understanding of the company. Without such knowledge, individuals misplace trust to some extent, exposing themselves to information risks unknowingly.”

    So what Vincent is doing, by critically questioning Google’s actions are exactly those means of reflection which are needed to break the means of how Google has so far been represented. This is exactly the problem that the author of this text brings to the forefront, not enough is critically analysed about the products, their placements and their potential socio-economic impacts, and if they do, a paroxysm of Google-bashing and conspiracy theory get flung around.

  13. Blogger Wallfish | Thursday, June 01, 2006 11:02:00 PM |  

    I dare Maher to study the Adwords system. In fact, I challenge anyone reading this blog to do their homework on the subject matter and then argue from a position far greater than the speculative footstool Maher teeters on. Google's monetisation effort provides an explanation on Quality Score. Once this is aired, the realisation that Google thrives on relevancy; what is appropriate in terms of what you are looking for; and honesty might become more apparent. Let's also look at how Google differs from other search engines in terms of effective metadata. Know what that is? An expose on that might prove useful in showing how Google's image is based largely on search results and innovation.

    Money doth not maketh the man. If it did, then Vincent wouldn't be a man and neither would I. In the same sense money does not make the company either - Intellect and honesty does. This leaves me to wonder about what makes Vincent Maher what he is: paranoid and dillusional.

    All of the examples prove Google's image to be as it is broadcasted - despite the fame and the fortune. I find it ironic that the selective critical eye doesn't fall on such aspects as the Google Grants program; nor does it recognise comprehensive explanations about the move into China; and the US legal situation with regards to user privacy - which is being upheld.

    Is the Google bashing a paroxysm? To quote a previous comments: "It's kind of sad. They change their homepage logo for all sorts of holidays and occasions. Just last week they paid tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. But Memorial Day doesn't seem to rate anything at all" and Maureen who quoted Kurtz: "Google is like an independent video store taken over by Blockbuster. They have a slightly larger "selection," but independent and foreign films have been moved to the basement, which is flooded and full of rats—as user-friendly as search results beyond #300. Why bother when there are six hundred shiny copies of Gigli up front?"

    Do these comments have any intellectual merit? This is my final comment on this matter.

  14. Anonymous Vincent Maher | Friday, June 02, 2006 8:26:00 AM |  

    Wallfish, I _have_ read the Google blog. I understand the arguments for both issues we are talking about, I just don't agree with them and think that, ultimately, actions speak louder than words.

    Your idea of the "most relevant results", alongside the decision to censor contnet in China, shows your argument up as smoke and mirrors, sorry dude. When your PR stint at Google is over, let me know.

  15. Anonymous kimmy Jarrett | Thursday, July 13, 2006 1:33:00 PM |  

    What walfish has said is just what a subordinates could have said,Question- do u know How Google generate revenue, question - do uknow how goolge rate its own sites....even google blogs have PR of 7 and more , Im talking about the exact algo or So.

  16. Anonymous mike | Monday, July 17, 2006 12:26:00 PM |  

    Well, Google is coming up with all sorts of services and products. Looks as if it does not want any competitors to stand in front of him.

    It is good that Google has been offering so much goodies. We all have trust in Google..

    But what about a site http://www.organicspam.com that has openly raised sword against Google. Will have to say that this is definitely a bold move.

    I am not totally in support of the site but it is a good step to say your concerns.Perhaps these webmasters have suffered because of "possible Google manipulations".. Worth visiting because I found some serious "behind the scenes" information about Google..I am a bit skeptical about Google now..