back to article MEPs want 'unbiased search', whatever that is – they're not sure either

Remember that vote in the European Parliament last week to “break up Google”? Well it’s not just about breaking up the American search giant. A closer reading between the lines of the non-legislative resolution reveals sideswipes at Amazon and eBay as well. The resolution – which was approved by by 458 to 173 last Thursday – …

  1. gerryg

    deja vu all over again

    Feels a bit like thinly disguised protectionism to me. Let's throw public funds at European non-alternatives rather than notice what we're good at. Over here we failed to understand Turing, LEO was largely ignored and so we created ICL. Tried with Inmos and the Transputer. (Didn't really think Acorn Research Machines was up to much until it became ARM). In France it was Groupe Bull. Holland probably Philips, Germany Siemens.

    Hurrah for MEPs

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: deja vu all over again

      Sorry but I disagree (but do agree about LEO and ICL which I once worked on). I think our MEPs are right that search is important and that removing bias (as much as possible) is important in order to make sure the market functions well.

      If the US isn't prepared to control it's companies then it's reasonable that a European alternative is proposed. It would only be protectionism if we weren't prepared to accept any non-European alternative which doesn't appear to be the case.

      I have to say that El Reg's recent articles about Google do seem rather biased in Google's favour on this subject... but to be fair not on other areas of the company's product line.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Unbiased" search results?

    AYFKM?

    There is no such thing. Any search that is not "biased" is not a search. That's what a search engine does, is to winnow out the wheat from the chaff. Hey, have a lot of luck with 890 million uncoordinated "results"...This is not even "thinly" designed "protectionism", it's an outright ripoff.

    Google should just start charging about $300 for its "software" per year to anyone in the EUC and call it a day.

    1. Martin Gregorie

      Re: "Unbiased" search results?

      Any search that is not "biased" is not a search. That's what a search engine does, is to winnow out the wheat from the chaff.

      Yeah, sure, but is it still unbiased when links to its owners other businesses appear, by magic or pure coincidence of course! near the top of the first page along with more links the all those who put money in their hands? How do you know this can't or won't happen?

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: "Unbiased" search results?

        Which begs the obvious question - when is a Google service, that gets ranked highly by Google, illegitimately promoted? In whose opinion is Google's opinion wrong, and why should we believe them?

        The last time someone gave me a search they said overly promoted a Google service, my own personalised results showed it.. 12th..

        1. Oninoshiko

          Re: "Unbiased" search results?

          "In whose opinion is Google's opinion wrong, and why should we believe them?"

          Think about that question a little more. When we ask Google a question (where can I sign up for an email account?) we want Google's opinion. If we didn't want Google's opinion we would ask Bing! So when we ask Google this question, would you expect them to say "gmail sucks"? Of course not, they think gmail is fantastic, and that's a legitimate opinion.

          Some agree. some don't, but I would only be shocked if Gmail DIDN'T rank at #1.

  3. Pseu Donyme

    Neutral search results are not an ureasonable thing to ask for as such: a (dominant) search engine's bias has consequences for third parties (other than search providers and theirs users). So far the best suggestion has been separating search to an independent (and hence presumeably neutral) company to eliminate the problem of biasing search results to push the search provider's other services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Noooo.

      Why would I want a search engine to return other search engines in its results?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noooo.

        Why would I want a search engine to return other search engines in its results?

        You mean like this? (Yes, I heard of this one back in 1997.)

    2. Keven E.

      Creativity rules!

      Paid for gets *unbiased -vs- unpaid for receives *biased. Some kinda business plan must be allowed for... this *seems to work... kinda.... for half of us... probably... maybe not...

      How about a mandatory3... no, 4... no.... 5 word search/fields... then just deliver the results in custom order (eg. sort by a number of different "whatever you choose" guidelines) which can be changed every time and/or follow a default value set for your browser/user combo. Then you only have (well more of) yourself to blame about the results. Actually... that should be available now just to see how consistent the current results are.

      Aren't they already following "trending" (so-to-speak) and having pre-compiled search results delivered... even if just to speed things up and ease up concurrent processing requests? (disregarding issues with how it was compiled in the first place). You can't expect them to do everything and offer it *free... can you?

  4. sabroni Silver badge
    WTF?

    surely search by its very nature must discriminate

    Indeed, but there's a difference between discriminating based on the words I type in the search box and discriminating based on your business plan. To conflate the two, or to make out that the first naturally leads to the second, is ridiculous.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: surely search by its very nature must discriminate

      If Google were to "discriminate based on a business plan" it would become useless to you and me, and we'd have to find an alternative.

      Google got where it is by doing a better job than others of giving users the most useful search results. That is, useful to the user! If they were to throw that away they'd lose their users and become just another has-been.

      Google's central business plan MUST be to continue to work for its users. Meaning it makes enemies out of spammers and ignorant politicians.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        C'mon, you're not that dim.

        Google don't just return 1 result per search. They could easily put some business promotion results in with the actual search results.

        Google's central business plan MUST be to continue to work for its customers, the advertisers that provide it's revenue. Meaning it has to keep it's users onside enough to be a valuable advertising base, no more than that.

        I'm not suggesting that all Google do is promote themselves, they do a ton of stuff I use and appreciate, but I'm not so enamoured with them that I'll pretend there's no conflict of interest when users search for a service that Google and it's competitors both provide.

  5. Arachnoid
    Joke

    Amazon Fire

    So basically they have two versions of Google search one with adverts [unpaid] and one without [Paid] Happy now?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is France running the EU now?

    The policies coming out lately seem to have in a lot in common with the protectionism that has always defined France. The Germans don't seem to be running it any longer, at least they always seemed firm in their belief that they could out-engineer the rest of the world so they didn't need to worry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is France running the EU now?

      What is wrong with protecting your own market? It did wonders for our Murican friends. It did wonders for the Japanese and it is making China the #1 powerhouse for the late 21 century. So why shouldn't Europe be allowed to look after its own?

      Oh, and read up a bit. German publishers are behind this motion. And rightly so!

  7. Daggerchild Silver badge
    Devil

    The solution is obvious!

    The MEPs should form a nice committee to devise their own search result/display algorithm, and then write laws to force it down our throats as punishment and penance for creating Google's monopolyness with our crazy free will.

    They will call this EU search engine something searchy, enquirylike... Aha!! "The Inquisition"! (didn't expect that did you!)

    1. king of foo

      Re: The solution is obvious!

      Exactly. However I would counter with the alternative, yet equally compelling name,

      Ni!

  8. Graham Marsden
    WTF?

    "Fortunately for Joe Consumer"...?

    How exactly is Joe Consumer "fortunate" if a search engine has the ability to clandestinely and covertly bias results in favour of one provider/ supplier/ business/ information source at the expense of others?

    Google claim that they're doing their best with their algorithm updates to stop people gaming their way to the top of the results page, yet we have to take it on trust that they are applying the same criteria equally to all the results because there is no independent verification of their impartiality.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DuckDuckGo

    is all I have to say.

  10. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Gee I must be missing a tick here...

    It must mean that Ad Block Plus (Firebadger), and AdAway (Android), are doing their respective Jobs... Consequently living in 2014, and still clicking the very first "Hit" on Google when everone, and their Dog knows that these are mostly just so much fodder...

  11. Camilla Smythe

    Meh..

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en-GB&source=hp&q=Vibrator+Motor&btnG=Google+Search&gbv=1

    NO!!!1!!! I want to repair my Dildo. ARGHH ARGHH ARGHH.

    Oh, perhaps someone else got more targeted results. Blush.

  12. Ted Treen
    Alert

    A better option

    I'm more with the board of Google:- who have just voted in favour of breaking up the EU.

    1. gjw

      Re: A better option

      There is a not so subtle difference between money and political power. Even Google will learn that, eventually.

  13. John Tserkezis

    There's another group that gets what they want through the exact same means:

    Playground bullies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A day or so before this resolution was voted in, a group of 17 Murican congress types wrote a letter to their European counterparts and ask them to vote against it. 9 of them were on Google's paylist for in total more than 250.000 dollars in a few months (the 13/14 election campaign).

      So who is the corrupting bully here?

      Don't forget: for Europeans the European Parliament is We the People*). For Murican multi-nationals Europe is just a means to make money and for tax evasion.

      *)So don't forget to vote next time.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    unbiased results?

    Aren't these the same people that demanded Google (etc) to (seemingly arbitrarily and with no oversight) "forget" stuff, and more recently have suggested that Google doesn't even need to tell the content owner when stuff is to be "forgotten"? Now they want unbiased results? Huh?

    1. king of foo

      Re: unbiased results?

      It's called doublethink

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: unbiased results?

      Aren't these the same people - No. That was an EU court. Read up!

      "and with no oversight" - No. Courts would have the last word, as it should in a constitutional state.

      "forget stuff' - Which is, according to EU-law a human right. Since then Google is making it clear that it will play games with our human rights.

      "Unbiased results" - In this case meaning: fair competition. According to the European Parliament Google is abusing its market position. That's what the motion was about.

      1. nijam Silver badge

        Re: unbiased results?

        > Aren't these the same people - No. That was an EU court. Read up!

        Actually, yes. It's the EU, end of.

  15. thebertster

    Where can I sign up for an e-mail account?

    Just an observation in response to @oninoshiko:

    Right now, if I actually search Google for the phrase you suggested in your comment, Microsoft and Hushmail are the top results (depending on whether you spell "e-mail" with a hyphen or not). GMail (well Google account signup) is fourth or fifth. That's in the actual search results. The right-hand ads sidebar has GMail at the top...but that is not the search result.

    Bing gives the same results (Microsoft top of the search list, Google top in the ads list and third in the actual search results).

    Yahoo! pretty much the same.

    DuckDuckGo also has Microsoft at the top, but in the guise of a "for dummies" guide to creating an e-mail account. The actual Microsoft sign-up page is third and the Google account sign-up page is the 22nd result (which makes me wonder if there is a negative bias going on with those guys).

    So that's convinced me. Microsoft is clearly the best place to sign up for an e-mail account!

    I'm convinced. I'm going to sign up for a Microsoft account; four search engines can't be wrong. MEPs on the other hand can be VERY wrong.

  16. plrndl

    Google is successful because it provides better results than its many rivals. “Better” as perceived by its users.

    A key part of this is decoding the garbage that a typical user types, and converting it into something a computer can search for.

    Another key part is downgrading the dross that arises from search engine optimisation.

    If Google biased its results for any purpose other than that of the users, it would soon be replaced by a competitor that was providing the wanted results.

    An unbiased search would simply turn up all 200 million sites that match your query, in random order. This would render the service, and the WWW, useless.

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