Google’s one-way mirror

Originally posted at CNTXT, March 20, 2009

Author: Daniël Verhoeven

The main Google paradox

One way to define contextual information search would be intelligent search. In this article we explore one of the origins of human intelligence: mirror neurons. As to prominent linguists like Arbib  and Lakoff mirror neurons explain the adaptive evolution of the human language faculty and the development of conceptual knowledge (Arbib, 2005; Gallese, Lakoff, 2007). The problem is our easy and accepting relationship with Google. We are geesing at Google and engage with it more and more every day, uncritically unthinkingly.

Siva Vaidhyanathan is concerned about the fact that:

“….we do not properly understand the nature of the nature of the transaction between us and Google. …into our relationship with Google we do not grasp that we are not really Google’s costumers. Google calls us users, but in fact we are Google’s products. Our attention is what Google sells to its customers, which are the advertisers.” (BBC interview)

The thesis I want to develop here and in the articles to come is that by using Google we stop developing our conceptual knowledge. Googling is not an intelligent information search strategy. But we are always communicating something. In using Google we express our intentions and the cleverness of Google is to incorporate our intentions in its advertising system and giving us the feel we are finding what we are looking for, but  for all this is what Google wants us to look at. One of the things that intrigues me why Google does not disclose to its users their personal user profile, though it shares it with third parties:

  • We may use personal information to provide the services you’ve requested, including services that display customized content and advertising.
  • We may also use personal information for auditing, research and analysis to operate and improve Google technologies and services.
  • We may share aggregated non-personal information with third parties outside of Google.
  • When we use third parties to assist us in processing your personal information, we require that they comply with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.
  • We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.
  • Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information on a server outside your own country.” ((

The stunning paradox is that Google says that it wants to use our personal data for “research and analysis to operate and improve Google technologies and services”, but is far to slow in improving search technologies. What about improvement? Google only recently (24 March 2009) implemented “a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search” as to ‘The Official Google Blog’. It was about time Google implemented this because this feature was implemented earlier in the search results of Google’s main competitors. Ask displays ‘Related Searches’ next to the page results and formulates additional relates Questions and Answers about the topic. Cuil lets you explore answers by category and subcategory. Ask and Cuil didn’t only offer associations and concepts earlier they offer more than Google does. Yahoo‘s  versions of concepts is comparable with the one of Google, only it was implemented much earlier. and Wikia Search doesn’t only offer conceptual associations it is also letting the user add suggestions interactively. So it looks rather like Google felt the heat from its competitors than it implemented a novel improvement. (see Search Engine History);

Is Google stupid or does it think we are stupid? I’m afraid the latter is the case. Google has collected the best research brains and is funding top research at universities worldwide but the use of this knowledge conflicts with its business model. If a Google search would deliver only relevant results, it would reduce the opportunities to show pay-per-click advertisements. These ads are the main income of Google

About the importance of Mirror neurons, also in CMC intention counts

Mirror Neurons were discovered in 1994 in the macaque brain by Gallese and Rizzolatti. What do Mirror Neurons do? They mirror observed actions:

“The observation of an object-related hand action leads to the activation of the same neural network active during its actual execution. Action observation causes in the observer the automatic activation of the same neural mechanism triggered by action execution.” (Gallese, 2005).

In the years that follow, Gallese and others (also called the Parma Group because they all work at the university of Parma in Italy) explore the Mirror Neuron system. The Mirror Neuron system is also demonstrated in the human brain. Continue reading

Google’s Stasi practices registering behavioral profiles of its users, invading our privacy

Posted at Adbusters, 12 March 2009
Author: Micah White
Keywords also in Wikipedia: Google, Privacy, Activism, Google Watch, Uberveillance
Keywords at Adbusters: privacy, Google, disobedienceclick, activism

We can force Google to stop their privacy violations while ridding the internet of advertising… by clicking ads.

Google is keeping logs of our private lives. (Picture source) Continue reading

Google Takes a Stand for Location Privacy, Along with Loopt « EFF

Posted at EFF, for fair use only
Author: Kevin Bankston

Wiki keywords: Privacy policy, Google
EFF Keywords: Cell TrackingPrivacy

Thanks in part to feedback from EFF, Google has chosen to take a strong and public stand on what legal privacy protections should apply if the government comes calling for the location data collected by Latitude, Google’s new cell phone-based friend-finding service. Google has decided to match the policy for dealing with law enforcement demands first adopted by its friend-finding competitor Loopt after consultation with EFF, a policy which relies on the strongest possible legal arguments for protecting users’ location privacy. The gist of the Latitude and Loopt policies? “Come back with a warrant.”

Like Loopt, Google’s Latitude doesn’t (currently) keep a historic log of its users’ locations; both companies overwrite the old data each time you report a new location. We think that’s the right move privacy-wise, and hope that between Loopt and Latitude, the we-don’t-keep-historic-logs policy will become the industry standard in the friend-finding space.

Being lawyers, though, we at EFF were just as concerned-if not more concerned-with legal policy: what would Google’s legal position be when a law enforcement agency tried to make it start logging a Latitude users’ location as part of an investigation? This is a particularly important question considering that when it comes to using the phone company’s cell tower data to track your location, the government’s position is that it doesn’t need to get a search warrant (though EFF’s been doing a good job of convincing the courts otherwise).
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Google and net neutrality

Author: Daniël Verhoeven, 22 feb 2009

Avant-propos: finding information on the web NOT using Google or any other search engine

A fortnight ago I planned to write an article about Google and contextual information search, the opposite of full text search (Google, Altavista, Yahoo search…). I started to collect information NOT using Google. I found out that one of my best friends in Belgium, Wim VDB – saw him on the birthday party of Francis – had made a small critical posting about Google privacy: ‘Zoekmachines en uw Privacy‘. When browsing his blog I stumbled on an article of Geert Lovink, I knew Geert a long time ago as a writer in Hactic… I wanted to reconnect. Using the tag, I found an article of him on Weizenbaum and Google search. Weizenbaum is a shared reference, one of the first well grounded critics of the information age. Since Weizenbauw was himself one of the architects of computer technology, he knows what he is talking about. Geert’s  article was a tribute to Weizenbaum and also a kind of Google bashing. This article linked to another article in Eurozine this one from Daniel Leisegan, Das Google-Imperium and to Siva Vaidhyanathan’s huge project:

The Googlization of Everything: 379 postings until now. Continue reading

The society of the query and the Googlization of our lives by Geert Lovink

A tribute to Joseph Weizenbaum

Geert LovinkEurozine, September 2008

“There is only one way to turn signals into information, through interpretation”wrote the computer critic Joseph Weizenbaum. As Google’s hegemony over online content increases, argues Geert Lovink, we should stop searching and start questioning.

A spectre haunts the world’s intellectual elites: information overload. Ordinary people have hijacked strategic resources and are clogging up once carefully policed media channels. Before the Internet, the mandarin classes rested on the idea that they could separate “idle talk” from “knowledge”. With the rise of Internet search engines it is no longer possible to distinguish between patrician insights and plebeian gossip. The distinction between high and low, and their co-mingling on occasions of carnival, belong to a bygone era and should no longer concern us. Nowadays an altogether new phenomenon is causing alarm: search engines rank according to popularity, not truth. Search is the way we now live. With the dramatic increase of accessed information, we have become hooked on retrieval tools. We look for telephone numbers, addresses, opening times, a person’s name, flight details, best deals and in a frantic mood declare the ever growing pile of grey matter “data trash”. Soon we will search and only get lost. Old hierarchies of communication have not only imploded, communication itself has assumed the status of cerebral assault. Not only has popular noise risen to unbearable levels, we can no longer stand yet another request from colleagues and even a benign greeting from friends and family has acquired the status of a chore with the expectation of reply. The educated class deplores that fact that chatter has entered the hitherto protected domain of science and philosophy, when instead they should be worrying about who is going to control the increasingly centralized computing grid. Continue reading

Google Executives Face Privacy-Related and Other Criminal Charges for Taunting Video Google Executives Face Privacy-Related and Other Criminal Charges for Taunting Video

Posted at Privacy Law Blog, 4 Feb 2009, for Fair use only

Several Google executives, including the Company’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, will face criminal charges in Italian court stemming from Italian authorities’ two-year investigation of a video posted on Google Video showing a disabled teen being taunted by classmates. The video, posted in 2006, depicts four high school boys in a Turin classroom taunting a classmate with Down syndrome and ultimately hitting the young man over the head with a box of tissues. Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, less than twenty-four hours after receiving multiple complaints about the video. Nonetheless, Fleischer and his Google colleagues face criminal charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal information that carry a maximum sentence of three (3) years.

According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals, which broke the story on February 2, 2009, the charges against Fleischer are believed to be the first criminal sanctions pursued against a privacy professional for his company’s actions. Under European Union legislation that was incorporated into Italian law in 2003, Internet service providers (“ISPs”) are not responsible for monitoring third-party content posted to their sites, but are required to remove offensive content if a complaint is received. These laws offer to ISPs protections that are similar to those found under U.S. law in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.  But Italian authorities, specifically Milan public prosecutor Francesco Cajani, are prosecuting Google as an Internet content provider, rather than as an ISP, and Italy’s penal code states that such providers are responsible for third-party content on their sites. Cajani believes that Google, and its executives, violated this provision by allowing the 191-second clip to be uploaded to its video site. Continue reading

Google Big Brother? Eyetracking en Latitude

Voorbeeld van Eye Tracking

latitute-tracking-mapGoogle heeft een blogpost geplaatst over eyetracking. Bij een eyetracking onderzoek worden de oogbewegingen van een proefpersoon gevolgd tijdens het bezoeken van een website. Hieruit worden dan zogenoemde heatmaps gegenereerd wat een visuele weergave voorstelt van de oogbewegingen. Google maakt intern ook gebruik van eyetracking om zodoende te kunnen bepalen hoe de zoekresultatenpagina eruit moet komen te zien. Een Quote:

“Based on eye-tracking studies, we know that people tend to scan the search results in order. They start from the first result and continue down the list until they find a result they consider helpful and click it — or until they decide to refine their query. The heatmap below shows the activity of 34 usability study participants scanning a typical Google results page. The darker the pattern, the more time they spent looking at that part of the page. This pattern suggests that the order in which Google returned the results was successful; most users found what they were looking for among the first two results and they never needed to go further down the page.”

Continue reading