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[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rene Meyer]

By multiple measures, Google is the internet’s most popular search engine. But Google’s not only a web search engine. Images, videos, mobile content — even Google TV!

Major Google Services

Google releases a dizzying array of new products and product updates on a regular basis, and Search Engine Land keeps you up-to-date with all the news. Here are just a few of our popular Google categories, where you can read past coverage:

Google: Our “everything” category, this lists all stories we’ve written about Google, regardless of subtopic.

Google Web Search: Our stories about Google’s web search engine, including changes and new features. Also see: Google: OneBox, Plus Box & Direct Answers, Google: Universal Search and Google: User Interface.

Google SEO: Articles from us about getting listed for free via SEO in Google’s search engine. Also see the related category of Google Webmaster Central.

Google AdWords: Our coverage of Google’s paid search advertising program.

Google AdSense: Stories about Google’s ad program for publishers, which allows content owners to carry Google ads and earn money.

Google Maps & Local: Coverage of Google Maps, which allows you to locate places, businesses, get directions and much more. Also see Google Earth for coverage of Google’s mapping application.

Google Street View: Articles about Google’s popular yet controversial Street View system that uses cars to take photos of homes and business, which are then made available through Google Maps.

Google YouTube & Video: Articles about Google’s YouTube service, which allows anyone to upload video content. YouTube also has so much search traffic that it stands out as a major search engine of its own.

Google Logos: Google loves to have special logos for holidays and to commemorate special events. We track some of the special “Google Doodles,” as the company calls them. Also see our retrospective story, Those Special Google Logos, Sliced & Diced, Over The Years.

Also see our special guide for searchers, How To Use Google To Search.

Google Resources

Further below is a full list of additional Google topics that we track. But first, here are a few sites that track Google in-depth.

First up is Google’s own Official Google Blog. Google also has many other blogs for individual products, which are listed on the official blog. This feed keeps you up-to-date on any official blog post, from any of Google’s blogs. Google also had a traditional press release area.

Beyond official Googledom are a number of news sites that track Google particularly in-depth. These include: Dirson (in Spanish), eWeek’s Google Watch, Google Blogoscoped, Google Operating System, John Battelle, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, WebProNewsand ZDNet Googling Google.

The Full Google List

We said Google is more than just a web search engine, right? Below is the full list of various Google search and search-related products that we track. Click any link to see our stories in that particular area:

  • Google (stories from all categories below, combined)
  • Google: Accounts & Profiles
  • Google: Acquisitions
  • Google: Ad Planner
  • Google: AdSense
  • Google: AdWords
  • Google: Alerts
  • Google: Analytics
  • Google: APIs
  • Google: Apps For Your Domain
  • Google: Audio Ads
  • Google: Base
  • Google: Blog Search
  • Google: Blogger
  • Google: Book Search
  • Google: Browsers
  • Google: Business Issues
  • Google: Buzz
  • Google: Calendar
  • Google: Checkout
  • Google: Chrome
  • Google: Code Search
  • Google: Content Central
  • Google: Critics
  • Google: Custom Search Engine
  • Google: Dashboard
  • Google: Definitions
  • Google: Desktop
  • Google: Discussions
  • Google: Docs & Spreadsheets
  • Google: Domains
  • Google: DoubleClick
  • Google: Earth
  • Google: Editions
  • Google: Employees
  • Google: Enterprise Search
  • Google: FeedBurner
  • Google: Feeds
  • Google: Finance
  • Google: Gadgets
  • Google: Gears
  • Google: General
  • Google: Gmail
  • Google: Groups
  • Google: Health
  • Google: iGoogle
  • Google: Images
  • Google: Internet Access
  • Google: Jet
  • Google: Knol
  • Google: Labs
  • Google: Legal
  • Google: Logos
  • Google: Maps & Local
  • Google: Marketing
  • Google: Mobile
  • Google: Moderator
  • Google: Music
  • Google: News
  • Google: Offices
  • Google: OneBox, Plus Box & Direct Answers
  • Google: OpenSocial
  • Google: Orkut
  • Google: Other
  • Google: Other Ads
  • Google: Outside US
  • Google: Parodies
  • Google: Partnerships
  • Google: Patents
  • Google: Personalized Search
  • Google: Picasa
  • Google: Place Pages
  • Google: Print Ads & AdSense For Newspapers
  • Google: Product Search
  • Google: Q & A
  • Google: Reader
  • Google: Real Time Search
  • Google: Search Customization
  • Google: SearchWiki
  • Google: Security
  • Google: SEO
  • Google: Sidewiki
  • Google: Sitelinks
  • Google: Social Search
  • Google: SpyView
  • Google: Squared
  • Google: Street View
  • Google: Suggest
  • Google: Toolbar
  • Google: Transit
  • Google: Translate
  • Google: Trends
  • Google: TV
  • Google: Universal Search
  • Google: User Interface
  • Google: Voice Search
  • Google: Web History & Search History
  • Google: Web Search
  • Google: Webmaster Central
  • Google: Website Optimizer
  • Google: YouTube & Video

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written By Greg Sterling - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rene Meyer]

Google's response is that significant SERP personalization is 'a myth.'

A new study (via Wired) from Google rival DuckDuckGo charges that Google search personalization is contributing to “filter bubbles.” Google disputes this and says that search personalization is mostly a myth.

The notion of filter bubbles in social media or search has been a controversial topic since the term was coined a number of years ago by Eli Pariser to describe how relevance algorithms tend to reinforce users’ existing beliefs and biases.

Significant variation in results. The DuckDuckGo study had 87 U.S. adults search for “gun control,” “immigration,” and “vaccinations” at the same time on June 24, 2018. They searched both in incognito mode and then in non-private-browsing mode. Most of the queries were done on the desktop; a smaller percentage were on mobile devices. It was a small test in terms of the number of participants and query volume.

Below are the top-level findings according to DuckDuckGo’s discussion:

  • Most people saw results unique to them, even when logged out and in private browsing mode.
  • Google included links for some participants that it did not include for others.
  • They saw significant variation within the News and Videos infoboxes.
  • Private browsing mode and being logged out of Google offered almost zero filter bubble protection.

The DuckDuckGo post offers a more in-depth discussion of the findings, as well as the raw data for download.

Comparing the variation in search results 

Comparing the variation in search results

My test found minor differences. I searched “gun control,” “immigration,” and “vaccinations” in private mode and non-incognito mode. I didn’t find the results to be substantially different, though there were some differences in the SERP.

In the case of “immigration” (above), you can see there’s an ad in the incognito results but none in the non-private results. The normal results also feature a larger Knowledge Panel and “people also ask” search suggestions, which didn’t appear on the first page in the incognito results but did appear in subsequent searches on the same term.

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan responded to the study with a series of tweets explaining that there’s very limited personalization in search results but that the company does show different results because of location, language differences, platform and time (on occasion). He said, “Over the years, a myth has developed that Google Search personalizes so much that for the same query, different people might get significantly different results from each other. This isn’t the case. Results can differ, but usually for non-personalized reasons.”

In September this year, Google told CNBC that it essentially doesn’t personalize search results.

Why you should care. Non-personalized search results make the job of SEO practitioners easier because they can better determine the performance of their tactics. Google doesn’t consider “localization” to be personalization, although many SEOs would argue that it is. On mobile devices, proximity is widely seen as a dominant local ranking factor.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in popsci.com written by David Nield - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Nevena Gojkovic Turunz]

Is your search engine of choice pulling its weight? It's perhaps a choice you've stopped thinking about, settling for whatever default option appears in your browser or on your phone—but as with most tech choices, you've got options.

Google has come to dominate search to the extent that it's become a verb in itself, but here we're going to check how Google stacks up against two of its biggest rivals including Microsoft's Bing, in 2019 and the privacy-focused search site known as DuckDuckGo.

 

Search results

Google Search results

Google results for "Abraham Lincoln."

We don't know what you're searching for, and without running thousands of searches across several months we can't really present you with a comprehensive comparison of how well these search engines scour the web. What we can do is tell you how these services performed on a few sample searches.

First we tried "Abraham Lincoln": All three search engines returned the Wikipedia page first, the History Channel site second, and Britannica third. DuckDuckGo listed Abraham Lincoln news above the search results, even though the 16th President of the United States hasn't really been in the news lately.

bing Search results

Bing results for "Abraham Lincoln."

As we wrote this article a few days after the 2019 Super Bowl, we tried "Super Bowl score" next, and all three search engines produced the right result in a box out above the search results. DuckDuckGo followed this with the official NFL site then some sports news sites, while Bing had a sports news site first and the NFL second. Google listed the score, then Super Bowl news, then some relevant tweets, and then other results.

Next we tried a question, specifically "how many days until Christmas?", to see how our search engines fared. Only Google presented the right answer front and center as part of its own interface, with DuckDuckGo and Bing returning links to Christmas countdown sites instead (though Bing did put "Wednesday December 25" right at the top).

duckduckgo Search results

DuckDuckGo results for "Abraham Lincoln."

For something a little more obscure we tried "Empire of the Sun" (both a 1987 Steven Spielberg movie and a music duo). Google returned the Wikipedia sites for the film then the band at the top, Bing returned the Wikipedia page for the movie then the band's official site, and DuckDuckGo returned the IMDB page for the Empire of the Sun film then the band's official site.

These are slight differences really, and the "best" one really depends on your personal preference (do you want to see Twitter results, or not?). All three sites are obviously very competent with basic searches, but Google obviously has the edge when it comes to finding content besides web pages, as well as answering questions directly (no doubt thanks to all that Google Assistant technology behind the scenes).

Search features

google Search features

Google really will flip a coin for you.

Speaking of Google Assistant, one of the advantages of Google is of course the way it ties into all the other Google apps and services: You can search for places on Google Maps, or bring up images in Google Photos, or query your Google Calendar, right from the Google homepage (as long as you're signed in). Try Googling "my trips" for example to see bookings stored in your Gmail account.

All three of these search engines feature filters for images, videos, news, and products; Bing and Google include a Maps option as well. You can dig in further on all three sites as well—filtering images by size or by color, for example. Google and Bing let you save searches to come back to later, whereas DuckDuckGo doesn't (see the separate section on privacy below).

bing Search features

Bing has a comprehensive image search feature.

Besides from basic searches, Google and DuckDuckGo do very well on extras: Unlike Bing, they can toss a coin, roll a die, or start a timer right there on the results screen, no more clicking required. Meanwhile, both Google and Bing can display details of a flight in a pop-up box outside the search results, whereas DuckDuckGo directs you to flight-tracking websites instead.

All three of our search engines can limit results to pages that have been published recently, but Google and Bing have a "custom date" search option (say 1980-1990, for example) that isn't available on DuckDuckGo. Google and Bing let you search by region too, whereas DuckDuckGo doesn't.

duckduck go Search features

DuckDuckGo can start a timer right in your web browser.

Appearance may not be number one in your list of priorities, but Bing presents its search box on top of an appealing full-screen wallpaper image, with links to news stories and other interesting articles underneath. It's more appealing visually than Google or DuckDuckGo, though Google has its doodles and DuckDuckGo has a few different color schemes to pick from.

As you can see, Google can do just about everything—it has been in the search engine game for a long time, after all. Bing and DuckDuckGo are able to match Google on some features, but not all, which makes it hard to switch from unless you have a specific reason to... and that brings us neatly on to the issue of user privacy.

User privacy

Google User privacy

 

Google knows a lot about you—and can serve up results from other Google apps, like Google Photos.

This is the big feature that DuckDuckGo sells itself on: As we've noted above, it doesn't log what you're searching for, and only puts up occasional advertising, which isn't personalized and can be disabled. If you're tired of the big tech firms hoovering up data on you, DuckDuckGo will appeal.

What's more, the sites you visit don't know the search terms you used to find them—something they can otherwise do by piecing together different clues from your browsing behavior and the data that your computer broadcasts publicly. DuckDuckGo also attaches to encrypted versions of site by default.

Bing User privacy

Bing, like Google, keeps a record of searches you've run.

Cookies aren't saved by DuckDuckGo either, those little files that sit locally on your computer and tell websites when you've visited before. Data like your IP address (your router's address on the web) and the browser you're using gets wiped by default too. You're effectively searching anonymously.

There's no doubt that both Google and Microsoft promise to protect your privacy and use the data they have on you responsibly—you can read their respective privacy policies here and here. However, it's also true that they collect much more data on you and what you're doing, so it's up to you whether you trust Google and Microsoft to use it wisely.

duckduckgo User privacy

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in thestar.com.my - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Anthony Frank]

The best search engine when it comes to privacy and results on par with Google is Startpage, a Dutch company. — dpa

Most people don't really think much further than Google when it comes to search engines. After all, there's a reason that everyone uses the verb "to Google" when they want to look something up.

But is Google the best search engine, objectively speaking?
In terms of search results, the answer is yes, and also in terms of user satisfaction.

But in terms of data protection, Google has some serious problems.
The best search engine when it comes to privacy and results on par with Google is Startpage, a Dutch company that also scores well when its apps are considered. The data protection regulations are much better, and the engine has many of Google's best features as well.

Startpage allows users to choose language and region manually just like Google. The results are essentially the same because the company uses the same technology as Google – the only difference being that it doesn't use trackers to store your data.

During test runs, Startpage was also able to deal with typos and vague search terms just as well as the US tech giant. – dpa
Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in theguardian.com written by Carole Cadwalladr - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

Tech-savvy rightwingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and… Donald Trump becomes president

Here’s what you don’t want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That’s all I did. I typed: “a-r-e”. And then “j-e-w-s”. Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: “are Jews a race?”, “are Jews white?”, “are Jews Christians?”, and finally, “are Jews evil?”

Is Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges, etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.”

Google searches. It’s the verb, to Google. It’s what we all do, all the time, whenever we want to know anything. We Google it. The site handles at least 63,000 searches a second, 5.5bn a day. Its mission as a company, the one-line overview that has informed the company since its foundation and is still the banner headline on its corporate website today, is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It strives to give you the best, most relevant results. And in this instance the third-best, most relevant result to the search query “are Jews… ” is a link to an article from stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi website. The fifth is a YouTube video: “Why the Jews are Evil. Why we are against them.”

The sixth is from Yahoo Answers: “Why are Jews so evil?” The seventh result is: “Jews are demonic souls from a different world.” And the 10th is from jesus-is-saviour.com: “Judaism is Satanic!”

There’s one result in the 10 that offers a different point of view. It’s a link to a rather dense, scholarly book review from thetabletmag.com, a Jewish magazine, with the unfortunately misleading headline: “Why Literally Everybody In the World Hates Jews.”

I feel like I’ve fallen down a wormhole, entered some parallel universe where black is white, and good is bad. Though later, I think that perhaps what I’ve actually done is scraped the topsoil off the surface of 2016 and found one of the underground springs that have been quietly nurturing it. It’s been there all the time, of course. Just a few keystrokes away… on our laptops, our tablets, our phones. This isn’t a secret Nazi cell lurking in the shadows. It’s hiding in plain sight.

Are women Googles search results

Stories about fake news on Facebook have dominated certain sections of the press for weeks following the American presidential election, but arguably this is even more powerful, more insidious. Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland, and one of the leading academic figures calling for tech companies to be more open and transparent calls the results “very profound, very troubling”.

He came across a similar instance in 2006 when, “If you typed ‘Jew’ in Google, the first result was jewwatch.org. It was ‘look out for these awful Jews who are ruining your life’. And the Anti-Defamation League went after them and so they put an asterisk next to it which said: ‘These search results may be disturbing but this is an automated process.’ But what you’re showing – and I’m very glad you are documenting it and screenshotting it – is that despite the fact they have vastly researched this problem, it has gotten vastly worse.”

And ordering of search results does influence people, says Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College, London, who has written at length on the impact of the big tech companies on our civic and political spheres. “There’s large-scale, statistically significant research into the impact of search results on political views. And the way in which you see the results and the types of results you see on the page necessarily has an impact on your perspective.” Fake news, he says, has simply “revealed a much bigger problem. These companies are so powerful and so committed to disruption. They thought they were disrupting politics but in a positive way. They hadn’t thought about the downsides. These tools offer remarkable empowerment, but there’s a dark side to it. It enables people to do very cynically, damaging things.”

Google is knowledge. It’s where you go to find things out. And evil Jews are just the start of it. There are also evil women. I didn’t go looking for them either. This is what I type: “a-r-e w-o-m-e-n”. And Google offers me just two choices, the first of which is: “Are women evil?” I press return. Yes, they are. Every one of the 10 results “confirms” that they are, including the top one, from a site called sheddingoftheego.com, which is boxed out and highlighted: “Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them. It is within reason to say women feel attraction but they cannot love men.”

Next I type: “a-r-e m-u-s-l-i-m-s”. And Google suggests I should ask: “Are Muslims bad?” And here’s what I find out: yes, they are. That’s what the top result says and six of the others. Without typing anything else, simply putting the cursor in the search box, Google offers me two new searches and I go for the first, “Islam is bad for society”. In the next list of suggestions, I’m offered: “Islam must be destroyed.”

Jews are evil. Muslims need to be eradicated. And Hitler? Do you want to know about Hitler? Let’s Google it. “Was Hitler bad?” I type. And here’s Google’s top result: “10 Reasons Why Hitler Was One Of The Good Guys” I click on the link: “He never wanted to kill any Jews”; “he cared about conditions for Jews in the work camps”; “he implemented social and cultural reform.” Eight out of the other 10 search results agree: Hitler really wasn’t that bad.

A few days later, I talk to Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. He’s been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naive, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? “No, you’re not being naive,” he says. “This is awful. It’s horrible. It’s the equivalent of going into a library and asking a librarian about Judaism and being handed 10 books of hate. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here. It can and should do better.”

He’s surprised too. “I thought they stopped offering to autocomplete suggestions for religions in 2011.” And then he types “are women” into his own computer. “Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a “direct answer”. This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.” That every woman has some degree of prostitute in her? “Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.”

I contacted Google about its seemingly malfunctioning autocomplete suggestions and received the following response: “Our search results are a reflection of the content across the web. This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what search results appear for a given query. These results don’t reflect Google’s own opinions or beliefs – as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures.”

Google isn’t just a search engine, of course. The search was the foundation of the company but that was just the beginning. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, now has the greatest concentration of artificial intelligence experts in the world. It is expanding into healthcare, transportation, energy. It’s able to attract the world’s top computer scientists, physicists, and engineers. It’s bought hundreds of start-ups, including Calico, the whose stated mission is to “cure death” and DeepMind, which aims to “solve intelligence”.

And 20 years ago it didn’t even exist. When Tony Blair became prime minister, it wasn’t possible to Google him: the search engine had yet to be invented. The company was only founded in 1998 and Facebook didn’t appear until 2004. Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are still only 43. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is 32. Everything they’ve done, the world they’ve remade, has been done in the blink of an eye.

But it seems the implications about the power and reach of these companies is only now seeping into the public consciousness. I ask Rebecca MacKinnon, director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at the New America Foundation, whether it was the recent furore over fake news that woke people up to the danger of ceding our rights as citizens to corporations. “It’s kind of weird right now,” she says, “because people are finally saying, ‘Gee, Facebook, and Google really has a lot of power’ like it’s this big revelation. And it’s like, ‘D’oh.’”

MacKinnon has particular expertise in how authoritarian governments adapt to the internet and bend it to their purposes. “China and Russia are a cautionary tale for us. I think what happens is that it goes back and forth. So during the Arab spring, it seemed like the good guys were further ahead. And now it seems like the bad guys are. Pro-democracy activists are using the internet more than ever but at the same time, the adversary has gotten so much more skilled.”

Last week Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina, published the first detailed  cursor: pointer; text-decoration: none !important; border-bottom: 0.0625rem solid rgb(220, 220, 220); transition: border-color 0.15s ease-out 0s;">research on how rightwing websites had spread their message. “I took a list of these fake news sites that was circulating, I had an initial list of 306 of them and I used a tool – like the one Google uses – to scrape them for links and then I mapped them. So I looked at where the links went – into YouTube and Facebook, and between each other, millions of them… and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“They have created a web that is bleeding through on to our web. This isn’t a conspiracy. There isn’t one person who’s created this. It’s a vast system of hundreds of different sites that are using all the same tricks that all websites use. They’re sending out thousands of links to other sites and together this has created a vast satellite system of rightwing news and propaganda that has completely surrounded the mainstream media system.”

He found 23,000 pages and 1.3m hyperlinks. “And Facebook is just the amplification device. When you look at it in 3D, it actually looks like a virus. And Facebook was just one of the hosts for the virus that helps it spread faster. You can see the New York Times in there and the Washington Post and then you can see how there’s a vast, vast network surrounding them. The best way of describing it is as an ecosystem. This really goes way beyond individual sites or individual stories. What this map shows is the distribution network and you can see that it’s surrounding and actually choking the mainstream news ecosystem.”

Charlie Beckett, a professor in the school of media and communications at LSE, tells me: “We’ve been arguing for some time now that plurality of news media is good. Diversity is good. Critiquing the mainstream media is good. But now… it’s gone wildly out of control. What Jonathan Albright’s research has shown is that this isn’t a byproduct of the internet. And it’s not even being done for commercial reasons. It’s motivated by ideology, by people who are quite deliberately trying to destabilise the internet.”

Albright’s map also provides a clue to understanding the Google search results I found. What these rightwing news sites have done, he explains, is what most commercial websites try to do. They try to find the tricks that will move them up Google’s PageRank system. They try and “game” the algorithm. And what his map shows is how well they’re doing that.

That’s what my searches are showing too. That the right has colonised the digital space around these subjects – Muslims, women, Jews, the Holocaust, black people – far more effectively than the liberal left.

“It’s an information war,” says Albright. “That’s what I keep coming back to.”

But it’s where it goes from here that’s truly frightening. I ask him how it can be stopped. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it can be. It’s a network. It’s far more powerful than any one actor.”

So, it’s almost got a life of its own? “Yes, and it’s learning. Every day, it’s getting stronger.”

The more people who search for information about Jews, the more people will see links to hate sites, and the more they click on those links (very few people click on to the second page of results) the more traffic the sites will get, the more links they will accrue and the more authoritative they will appear. This is an entirely circular knowledge economy that has only one outcome: an amplification of the message. Jews are evil. Women are evil. Islam must be destroyed. Hitler was one of the good guys.

And the constellation of websites that Albright found – a sort of shadow internet – has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

Cambridge Analytica, an American-owned company based in London, was employed by both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, has made few public announcements since the Brexit referendum but he did say this: “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists.”

Steve Bannon, the founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board and it has emerged that the company is in talks to undertake political messaging work for the Trump administration. It claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. It knows their quirks and nuances and daily habits and can target them individually.

“It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.”

Did such micro-targeted propaganda – currently legal – swing the Brexit vote? We have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica help Trump to victory? Again, we have no way of knowing. This is all happening in complete darkness. We have no way of knowing how our personal data is being mined and used to influence us. We don’t realise that the Facebook page we are looking at, the Google page, the ads that we are seeing, the search results we are using, are all being personalised to us. We don’t see it because we have nothing to compare it to. And it is not being monitored or recorded. It is not being regulated. We are inside a machine and we simply have no way of seeing the controls. Most of the time, we don’t even realise that there are controls.

Rebecca MacKinnon says that most of us consider the internet to be like “the air that we breathe and the water that we drink”. It surrounds us. We use it. And we don’t question it. “But this is not a natural landscape. Programmers and executives and editors and designers, they make this landscape. They are human beings and they all make choices.”

But we don’t know what choices they are making. Neither Google or Facebook make their algorithms public. Why did my Google search return nine out of 10 search results that claim Jews are evil? We don’t know and we have no way of knowing. Their systems are what Frank Pasquale describes as “black boxes”. He calls Google and Facebook “a terrifying duopoly of power” and has been leading a growing movement of academics who are calling for “algorithmic accountability”. “We need to have regular audits of these systems,” he says. “We need people in these companies to be accountable. In the US, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, every company has to have a spokesman you can reach. And this is what needs to happen. They need to respond to complaints about hate speech, about bias.”

Is bias built into the system? Does it affect the kind of results that I was seeing? “There’s all sorts of bias about what counts as a legitimate source of information and how that’s weighted. There’s enormous commercial bias. And when you look at the personnel, they are young, white and perhaps Asian, but not black or Hispanic and they are overwhelmingly men. The worldview of young wealthy white men informs all these judgments.”

Later, I speak to Robert Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, and the author of the study that Martin Moore told me about (and that Google has publicly criticised), showing how search-rank results affect voting patterns. On the other end of the phone, he repeats one of the searches I did. He types “do blacks…” into Google.

“Look at that. I haven’t even hit a button and it’s automatically populated the page with answers to the query: ‘Do blacks commit more crimes?’ And look, I could have been going to ask all sorts of questions. ‘Do blacks excel at sports’, or anything. And it’s only given me two choices and these aren’t simply search-based or the most searched terms right now. Google used to use that but now they use an algorithm that looks at other things. Now, let me look at Bing and Yahoo. I’m on Yahoo and I have 10 suggestions, not one of which is ‘Do black people commit more crime?’

“And people don’t question this. Google isn’t just offering a suggestion. This is a negative suggestion and we know that negative suggestions depending on lots of things can draw between five and 15 more clicks. And this all programmed. And it could be programmed differently.”

What Epstein’s work has shown is that the contents of a page of search results can influence people’s views and opinions. The type and order of search rankings was shown to influence voters in India in double-blind trials. There were similar results relating to the search suggestions you are offered.

“The general public are completely in the dark about very fundamental issues regarding online search and influence. We are talking about the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it.”

Damien Tambini, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, who focuses on media regulation, says that we lack any sort of framework to deal with the potential impact of these companies on the democratic process. “We have structures that deal with powerful media corporations. We have competition laws. But these companies are not being held responsible. There are no powers to get Google or Facebook to disclose anything. There’s an editorial function to Google and Facebook but it’s being done by sophisticated algorithms. They say it’s machines not editors. But that’s simply a mechanised editorial function.”

And the companies says John Naughton, the Observer columnist and a senior research fellow at Cambridge University, are terrified of acquiring editorial responsibilities they don’t want. “Though they can and regularly do tweak the results in all sorts of ways.”

Certainly, the results about Google on Google don’t seem entirely neutral. Google “Is Google racist?” and the featured result – the Google answer boxed out at the top of the page – is quite clear: no. It is not.

But the enormity and complexity of having two global companies of a kind we have never seen before influencing so many areas of our lives is such, says Naughton, that “we don’t even have the mental apparatus to even know what the problems are”.

And this is especially true of the future. Google and Facebook are at the forefront of AI. They are going to own the future. And the rest of us can barely start to frame the sorts of questions we ought to be asking. “Politicians don’t think long term. And corporations don’t think long term because they’re focused on the next quarterly results and that’s what makes Google and Facebook interesting and different. They are absolutely thinking long term. They have the resources, the money, and the ambition to do whatever they want.

“They want to digitize every book in the world: they do it. They want to build a self-driving car: they do it. The fact that people are reading about these fake news stories and realising that this could have an effect on politics and elections, it’s like, ‘Which planet have you been living on?’ For Christ’s sake, this is obvious.”

“The internet is among the few things that humans have built that they don’t understand.” It is “the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. Hundreds of millions of people are, each minute, creating and consuming an untold amount of digital content in an online world that is not truly bound by terrestrial laws.” The internet as a lawless anarchic state? A massive human experiment with no checks and balances and untold potential consequences? What kind of digital doom-mongerer would say such a thing? Step forward, Eric Schmidt – Google’s chairman. They are the first lines of the book, The New Digital Age, that he wrote with Jared Cohen.

And what next? Rebecca MacKinnon’s research has shown how authoritarian regimes reshape the internet for their own purposes. Is that what’s going to happen with Silicon Valley and Trump? As Martin Moore points out, the president-elect claimed that Apple chief executive Tim Cook called to congratulate him soon after his election victory. “And there will undoubtedly be be pressure on them to collaborate,” says Moore.

Journalism is failing in the face of such change and is only going to fail further. New platforms have put a bomb under the financial model – advertising – resources are shrinking, traffic is increasingly dependent on them, and publishers have no access, no insight at all, into what these platforms are doing in their headquarters, their labs. And now they are moving beyond the digital world into the physical. The next frontiers are healthcare, transportation, energy. And just as Google is a near-monopoly for search, its ambition to own and control the physical infrastructure of our lives is what’s coming next. It already owns our data and with it our identity. What will it mean when it moves into all the other areas of our lives?

“At the moment, there’s a distance when you Google ‘Jews are’ and get ‘Jews are evil’,” says Julia Powles, a researcher at Cambridge on technology and law. “But when you move into the physical realm, and these concepts become part of the tools being deployed when you navigate around your city or influence how people are employed, I think that has really pernicious consequences.”

The headline was that DeepMind was going to work with the NHS to develop an app that would provide early warning for sufferers of kidney disease. And it is, but DeepMind’s ambitions – “to solve intelligence” – goes way beyond that. The entire history of 2 million NHS patients is, for artificial intelligence researchers, a treasure trove. And, their entry into the NHS – providing useful services in exchange for our personal data – is another massive step in their power and influence in every part of our lives.

Because the stage beyond search is prediction. Google wants to know what you want before you know yourself. “That’s the next stage,” says Martin Moore. “We talk about the omniscience of these tech giants, but that omniscience takes a huge step forward again if they are able to predict. And that’s where they want to go. To predict diseases in health. It’s really, really problematic.”

For the nearly 20 years that Google has been in existence, our view of the company has been inflected by the youth and liberal outlook of its founders. Ditto Facebook, whose mission, Zuckberg said, was not to be “a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission to make the world more open and connected.”

It would be interesting to know how he thinks that’s working out. Donald Trump is connecting through exactly the same technology platforms that supposedly helped fuel the Arab spring; connecting to racists and xenophobes. And Facebook and Google are amplifying and spreading that message. And us too – the mainstream media. Our outrage is just another node on Jonathan Albright’s data map.

“The more we argue with them, the more they know about us,” he says. “It all feeds into a circular system. What we’re seeing here is new era of network propaganda.”

We are all points on that map. And our complicity, our credulity, being consumers not concerned citizens, is an essential part of that process. And what happens next is down to us. “I would say that everybody has been really naive and we need to reset ourselves to a much more cynical place and proceed on that basis,” is Rebecca MacKinnon’s advice. “There is no doubt that where we are now is a very bad place. But it’s we as a society who have jointly created this problem. And if we want to get to a better place, when it comes to having an information ecosystem that serves human rights and democracy instead of destroying it, we have to share responsibility for that.”

Are Jews evil? How do you want that question answered? This is our internet. Not Google’s. Not Facebook’s. Not rightwing propagandists. And we’re the only ones who can reclaim it.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Go to a search result, click on a listing, and then click back to the search results page on Google to trigger this on Google desktop search.

Google has launched a new look and feels for the “people also search for” query refinement box. Google has been testing numerous designs of this feature over the years, including dynamic loading versions.

Now, Google shows a box around an organic result with “people also searched for” suggestions below, separated by a line. The suggestions either load on delay or when a user clicks on a result and then clicks back to the search results.

Here is what the “people also search for” feature looks like now:

Here is what the people also search for feature looks like now

Google has been testing this specific design since last November.

This is the old look on desktop:

people also ask

This seems to now be fully rolled out on a desktop search, so you can give it a try yourself.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Grace Irwin]

New markup from Schema.org including HowTo, QAPage, and FAQPage can be used to potentially show your content in Google in a brand-new way. Google previewed this in Singapore a couple of weeks ago

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has been testing for the past several months a new form of search results snippets: the way the search results appear to searchers. These new search snippets are in the form of FAQs or frequently asked questions, Q&A (questions & answers) and How-Tos.

Akhil Agarwal notified us about this feature on Twitter, and Google has just sent us a statement explaining the test. Here is the screenshot presented at a recent Google event in Singapore:

Google FAQs QA and How Tos

A Google Spokesperson told us:

We’re always looking for new ways to provide the most relevant, useful results for our users. We’ve recently introduced new ways to help users understand whether responses on a given Q&A or forum site could have the best answer for their question. By bringing a preview of these answers onto Search, we’re helping our users more quickly identify which source is most likely to have the information they’re looking for. We’re currently working with partners to experiment with ways to surface similar previews for FAQ and How-to content.

These new snippet features give more insights into what the searcher can expect from that web page before deciding to click on the search result. Webmasters should be able to mark up their content with structured data and to have their search results be eligible to have question-and-answer previews shown — similar to how supporting metadata around the number of upvotes and the Top Answer feature works.

Google will soon open up an interest form to allow publishers and webmasters to participate in the FAQ and How-to formats shown in the screenshot above.

But if you review the Schema.org website, you can find a lot of this markup available already, including HowTo markupQA page markup, and FAQ markup. So if you want to get started early, consider adding the appropriate markup to the sections of your HTML.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Amy Gesenhues - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Users no longer have to go to their Google Account page to access privacy controls

Google updated its user privacy controls on Wednesday, allowing users to delete their search activity — and control the ads the see — directly from the Google Search home page both on desktop and the mobile web, as well as from the Google Search iOS app.

As long as a user is signed into their account, they will be able to access their search data without having to go to their Google Account page and click through to the “Personal info & privacy” settings. On the mobile web experience, “Your data in Search” will be a persistent menu item on the home page as well as on results pages.

Google search data

Why search marketers should care

Since news broke that Cambridge Analytica had used an app to harvest and exploit Facebook user data and then the later launch of the EU’s GDPR legislation, Google and other popular online platforms have been forced to pay more attention to how they store user data and be more transparent about how that data is used for ad targeting purposes.

While this latest update from Google is a step in the right direction in terms of user privacy, advertisers could be impacted in two ways. First, it’s now easier for users to delete and control their search data, making it more difficult to target ads to them. Second, users will be able to react more quickly to ads they don’t want to see. One could argue that such controls would help advertisers avoid serving ads to likely unresponsive audiences, therefore allowing them to focus on more receptive individuals.

“To control the ads you see when you search, we give you access to your Ad Settings. Additionally, you can access your Activity Controls to decide what information Google saves to your account and uses to make Search and other Google services faster, smarter and more useful,” writes Google’s director of product management, Eric Miraglia.

your data in search

Giving users more direct access to control what information Google saves will potentially limit available ad targeting data. But, whether or not such efforts will impact advertisers will depend on how readily users avail themselves of these privacy tools. Certainly, having a call-to-action on its desktop home page, and a menu option within the mobile experience, will make this more top-of-mind for Google searchers.

More on Google’s latest user privacy control updates

  • The updates are rolling out on desktop, mobile web and the Google Search app for iOS on Wednesday, but won’t be available on the Android app until the coming weeks.
  • Google says it plans to expand these privacy control efforts to Google Maps in 2019, followed by releases in “many” other Google products.
  • In addition to being able to delete recent search activity, control ad settings and have access to Activity Controls, users will also see a “How activity data makes Search work” message aimed at educating them on how their settings and activity on Google impact search results.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Michelle Robbins - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jasper Solander]

Google updates the search results features with an expanded featured snippet targeting broad, nuanced queries

Google has been rolling out many new search features over the past few months related to images, featured snippets, and the knowledge graph. Today the search giant released another feature called “multifaceted featured snippets.”

Multifaceted featured snippets will be surfaced for queries that are sufficiently broad enough to allow for more than one interpretation of what was submitted. In these instances, the SERP returned will include more than one featured snippet, with the original query rewritten as the questions the algorithm assumes the user may have intended, and the results displayed in the multifaceted snippet will reflect those new questions.

From the announcement:

  • There are several types of nuanced queries where showing more comprehensive results could be helpful. We’re starting first with “multi-intent” queries, which are queries that have several potential intentions or purposes associated. The query “tooth pain after a filling,” for example, could be interpreted as “why does my tooth still hurt after a filling?” or “how long should a tooth hurt after a filling?”

For example:

garden need full su

Multifaceted Featured Snippets vs. Multi-Perspective Answers

Back in December, Bing began rolling out AI-powered multi-perspective answers as part of its “Intelligent Search” set of new features, which includes Intelligent Answers, Intelligent Image Search and Conversational Search. Multi-perspective answers are just one of the “Intelligent Answers” features that has been live since the rollout. These results surface two (or more) authoritative sources on a topic, and will typically include differing perspectives/answers to the query.

Bing leverages its deep recurrent neural network models to determine similarity and sentiment among authoritative sources, and extracts the multiple viewpoints related to a topic — providing the most relevant set of multi-perspective answers (covered in more detail here).

is cofee good for you

Google’s multifaceted featured snippets may appear not too dissimilar from Bing’s multi-perspective answers, in that they also provide multiple rich results for a single query, but they are instead based on the presumed multiple intentions of a query (resulting in both multiple queries and results) vs. multiple viewpoints resulting from a single query. With these types of broad queries, many interpretations of what the user is actually asking can exist.

Multifaceted snippets aim to provide a more comprehensive and actionable set of results for these multi-intent query scenarios. They differ from multi-perspective intelligent answers in that they presume a different question might be being asked altogether, and surface responses for each of the queries the algorithm assumes the user may have actually intended, as the screenshot below demonstrates:

associative property of addition rule

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Greg Sterling - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Joshua Simon]

Digital agency ROAST has released a Voice Search Ranking Report (registration required), which seeks to categorize and understand how Google processes and response to voice queries. It also tries to determine when Google Home uses featured snippets/Answer Box results and when it does not.

The company used keyword analytics to compile a list of “616 key phrases in the UK featuring snippet answer boxes.” It then determined the top phrases by query volume across a range of verticals (e.g., medical, retail, travel, finance). The tests were run in November and compared Google Home and traditional search results.

The study sought to answer the following questions:

  • How many of the key phrases were answered [on Google Home]?
  • Do the answers given match the answer boxes’ results?
  • Which keyphrases prompt Google, not to user answer boxes?
  • Can we compare visibility on voice search to answer boxes? Is there a difference?

In the majority of cases, the Google Home result mirrored the snippet/Answer Box, according to the study. But in a number of cases, when there was a snippet, Home provided no answer or a different answer.

Comparing Desktop Search Results with Google Home

Comparing Desktop Search Results with Google Home

I didn’t do any testing of ROAST’s findings, but in two ad hoc cases where the company said there was no answer, my questions received the same answer featured in the snippet. It’s also the case that rephrasing questions can yield results that initially received an “I can’t help with that yet” response.

The report grouped Google Home answers into six different categories:

  • Standard answer (referencing a source/domain, the most common type of response).
  • Location result.
  • Action prompt (suggestion).
  • Definition.
  • Flight search.
  • Similar question (“I’m not sure, but I can tell you the answer to a similar question”).

Google Home answered just under 75 percent of the queries in the test. When Home provided an answer, roughly 80 percent of answers were the same as the Answer Box, according to ROAST. In 20 percent of those cases, however, answers came from different data sources (e.g., local, flight search).

There’s a more detailed discussion of these findings in the report. However, here are ROAST’s verbatim conclusions:

  • Just because you occupy the featured snippet answer box result, doesn’t mean you own the voice search result. Sometimes the assistant won’t give any answer or it references a different domain.
  • Watch out for key phrases where Google doesn’t use answer box information for results — for example, fights, locations, actions.
  • Google My Business is key to any local related searches.
  • You need to start to develop a key phrase list specifically for tracking in voice search reports — this list will be different from your normal key phrase list for search.

ROAST says it intends to produce more such reports in different verticals in 2018. I would also encourage others to do similar testing to add more insight to the conversation.

Categorized in Search Engine
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