Netizen Report: Search Edition

Last week’s Netizen Report on Global Voices Advocacy started off in the Googleplex, looking at a series of challenges Google has faced over the management of its search results:

In our latest Netizen Report we focus on the busy week Google is having as the world’s biggest search engine seeks to manage concerns from governments, businesses and users. Google’s decision to punish copyright violators by lowering their rankings on the search engine’s algorithm is a reminder of the how search results have far-reaching effects. The move to decrease the page rankings of sites that have repeatedly received DMCA “takedown” notices of copyright infringement is a nod to Hollywood’s concern over content piracy, but some technologists argue it will do little to stem illegal downloads because the links on Google will merely be harder to find. Privacy advocates say the move threatens the reliability of search results.

Another search engine change Google announced is a beta test of a tool that will include results from Gmail in search requests when a user is logged in to their account. This announcement is arousing privacy concerns similar to when Google used its users’ personal data in 2010 to create the now-defunct Google Buzz chat network. As a result of the 2010 Google Buzz concerns the United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required Google to undergo privacy audits for 20 years. The FTC also announced last week that Google will pay a $22.5 million settlement for violating that privacy settlement with the agency by placing behavioral tracking cookies in Apple’s Safari Web browser. The settlement is the largest ever filed with the FTC, but it is reportedly equal to the amount Google makes in five hours. More government pressure on Google comes from India, which just launched an anti-trust investigation of the company over alleged anti-competitive practices on Monday. When questioned on the investigation Google replied to Reuters, “We’re confident that our products are compliant with competition law in India.”

From there, we turn to other Sovereigns of Cyberspace, including Craigslist, Facebook and Apple, each of which is reshaping the Internet environment through a series of policy changes. Then we turn to Hong Kong, the Ukraine, and beyond. Click here to read the whole thing.

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