If Google might be doing it…

This post was written by Abe on December 1, 2010
Posted Under: Alerts,Federated Search,Reviews,View from Inside

Last week (on November 23rd) Sol wrote an article for the Federated Search Blog, Beyond search results bias, which raises the concern over search result bias by Google and by discovery services. Sol refers to the allegation by Harvard Professor Benjamin Edelman that Google is biasing some of its search results by first displaying results from its own properties. Edelman is not just conjecturing; he has performed research to back his allegation.

Sol’s article was prescient as just yesterday the New York Times published the article, E.U. Launches Formal Antitrust Investigation of Google, in which the E.U. Commission informed the world:

“… that it was also looking into whether Google may have given its own services ‘preferential placement’ in search results.”

So as Sol, Carl Grant and I have pointed out in recent blog articles, librarians who are evaluating whether to subscribe to a discovery service such as Summon or EDS need to be really concerned about “vendor neutrality.” Might Summon or EDS, today or in the future, favor results from some publishers to increase usage of some sources? If Google is being accused of such bias, might not EBSCO or ProQuest also have a bias?

Beyond the question of whether or not I would even subscribe to a discovery service, assuming that I did, I would much prefer to select such a service from an independent 3rd party vendor whose main business was not selling you content.

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