A year ago yesterday the European Court of Justice passed down the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling. It held that, under the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive, members of the public could request that search engines remove ‘information relating to a person from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of that person’s name’ if the information was ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’. Since then, Google has received about 250,000 requests to remove more than 900,000 links. It has accepted around 40 per cent of them.
Google announced that they were going into the digital bookselling business at last year's Frankfurt Book Fair. The first e-books for sale from Google Editions, they said, were going to be available in the first half of 2010. As yet, there's still no sign of them although Google remains adamant that the project is on its way. It's already clear that there are some key differences between what Google Editions will offer and what's already on the market.
What with the European Commission's inquiry into its alleged anti-competitive behaviour and the controversy surrounding its megalomaniac digital library plans, not to mention the fiasco of Google Buzz, the irritating and privacy-invading social networking package that's now unavoidable for anyone with a Gmail account, Google's been in need of some positive publicity. So in some ways, at least to the internet behemoth's PR department, the conviction yesterday of three executives for breaking Italian privacy laws must come as a relief: Google can for once cast themselves in their old and increasingly unconvincing roles of underdogs and good guys. They explain what happened on their blog:
Here's a nice story about George Plimpton told, for no particular reason, through the medium of Google maps.
Google are in the news for saying that they might pull out of China, and/or stop censoring searches on its Chinese search engine – a topic of great sensitivity since they opened for (censored) business in China in 2006. But there's more than one sort of censorship, and those who think that self-censorship is one of the worst types will enjoy this. It compares the suggestions made by the search engine when you type in 'Christianity is' or 'Hinduism is' or 'Judaism is' or 'Buddhism is' with what happens when you type in 'Islam is'. It's more noteworthy given that the search suggestions in general roam wild and free. Type in 'Why is there' into the box and Google leaps to complete the thought with 'a dead Pakistani on my couch'.
Doubting my ability to read the words on a box of Russian chocolates the other day – quite unfairly: my Russian may be close to non-existent but you don't need more than a rudimentary grasp of the Cyrillic alphabet to decipher such loanwords as 'coffee', 'chocolate' and 'praline' – the people I was with decided to trust instead to Google's translation service, only to be immediately stumped by the problem of how to type the Russian words. The alphabet question aside, Google Translate is quite a nifty tool. Not only can it work out for itself which language the phrase you'd like to translate is in – I suppose because you may well not know that yourself – but it translates it as you type.
Microsoft says that its brand-new search engine, Bing, delivers results that are just as good as those of its competitors. But Bing is no mere imitator, slavishly copying those that have gone before. Just compare a search for 'Bing market share' on Bing with the same search as performed by what Microsoft coyly calls the 'market leader’. Despite the undoubtedly unprejudiced algorithmic approach of both technologies, the results look very different.