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It's probably inevitable that when an organisation gets very big, people want to take a swipe at it. Look how unpopular Microsoft is, despite the fact that virtually all of its products work fairly well, some of them are superb, and the corporation and its founder Bill Gates have so far done a pretty good job of avoiding political or social controversy.
 
There's no question that Google is a wonderful search engine - like 63% of all surfers the GOS has used it for years very happily. Not any more, though.
 
The adverts that used to appear down the side of each page of Grumpy Old Sod.com were supplied by Google using their "Adsense" programme. Again, it works really well: Google's robots quickly read the page as you open it, and automatically send down adverts chosen to match the content of the page. When you click on one of the adverts, The GOS earns a tiny fraction of a cent, and each month this adds up to enough money to keep him in roll-ups - or to pay his webhosting bill, more to the point.
 
But as you will have seen from our homepage, Adsense recently kicked this website out. Despite repeated emails they have not explained exactly why - they just keep sending variants of their original message saying that Grumpy Old Sod and Adsense are "not a good fit" and they don't think their adverts are useful to our readers.
 
Searching the internet (not using Google, needless to say!) reveals that this is a common occurrence - here's just one instance from a contributor to the Google Community website
 
I am FUMING! Adsense kicked me off this week with no explanation, no proof of "invalid clicks" and now goes on to TOTALLY IGNORE all my emails requesting reasons and proof of these clicks!!! The killer is, that they sent me the email exactly one month after my last earnings which total led over 1100.00 almost as though they were waiting til my adsense earnings were at their highest and end of the month and then kicked me off. Not only am i pissed at them for not giving me any proof of invalid clicks but they say they are not sending me my hard earned money from the last month PLUS they totally ignore all emails sent to them through different contacts on their site. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?????
 
"Invalid clicks" is just one reason Google give for excluding websites from the scheme - they mean that they think the webmaster has been clicking his own adverts to drive his income up. One presumes that they can prove this, though this complainant's experience is like ours - they can't be arsed to give chapter and verse, but act as judge and jury in their own case. It's more likely that Grumpy Old Sod has offended in a different way, by carrying content or links that are not entirely complimentary about certain religions, nations or politicians. In other words, we've been censored.
 
It's not the end of the world. There are other advertisers, and there are loads of other search engines - the New Media Journal has an exhaustive list of search engines, and many of them are very good indeed. The GOS has settled on one called All the Web which seems easy to use and highly effective.
 

 
But it's all made The GOS wonder about Google in general, so he's been doing some research. I wonder how many people know that if you use Google Desktop Search it retains the complete content of your desktop, your emails, your Word documents etc.? Both the Google Toolbar and Google WebAccelerator record the web sites you visit, how often you visit them, how long you visit them, when you visit them, the links you click and the searches you perform. There's an explosive listing of the information various Google facilities collect on Acroterian.
 
And Google doesn't want to stop there. It has plans to collect even more information about its users, as the Financial Times reported in May this year
 
Google's ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off. Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world's information.
 
Asked how Google might look in five years' time, Mr Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation. The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask questions such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'"
 
Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: "We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don't know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google's expansion." He said Google's newly relaunched iGoogle service, which allows users to personalise their own Google search page and publish their own content, would be a key feature.

 
There are two long articles in Wikipedia about Google, one focusing on privacy issues and the other on censorship. Not surprising, then, that in 2005 Google tried to take over Wikipedia, or that a year later Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was planning a joint venture with Amazon to launch a rival search engine.
 
Of course it's the censorship issue that most interests The GOS, since he has in effect been censored himself by Google. In 2002 a study reported that over 100 websites sites had been removed from the German and French versions of Google. This censorship mainly affected Nationalist, Nazi, anti-semitic and radical Islamic websites. Under French and German law, hate speech and Holocaust denial are illegal, so Google complies by not including sites containing such material in its search results. Fair enough, you might think, but there is no way to check whether a search has been censored like this. Freedom of information and free speech both entail free access to all material, however distasteful. In the UK we know very well the disastrous effects of simply pretending that the bogeyman isn't there. We're experts at appeasement.
 
But it's Google's relationship with the Chinese authorities that attracts the most attention. Colloquially known as "The Great Firewall of China", Google China search results are filtered so as not to bring up any results concerning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, websites supporting the independence movements of Tibet and Taiwan or the Falun Gong movement, and other information perceived to be harmful to the People's Republic of China.
 
In early 2006 Google News (though not the main search engine) removed several sites from its search engine because complaints were received about articles that were critical of Islam. Rather more surprising was Google's decision in 2007 to ban advertisements from U.S.senator Susan Collins' re-election campaign.
 
In March 2007, satellite imagery on Google Maps showing post-Hurricane Katrina damage in the U.S. state of Louisiana was replaced with images from before the storm. Large areas of Saudi-Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon are also replaced with fake desert. In addition, there are other instances where it appears that Google Maps uses satellite map images with missing or unclear data, including the residences of prominent American politicians. Here is a long article on how Google censorship works.
 
To be fair - and rather reluctantly - we have to add one little rider. In America the Department of Justice decided that it had to know virtually everything that virtually everyone was doing online - at least for a representative period of time. As a result, the government recently subpoenaed records from all of the major ISP's and search engines. Not surprisingly, almost all the companies complied with the subpoenas.
 
Only Google objected. As a result of attempting to protect both its trade secrets and the public perception of privacy, Google was rewarded by an immediate drop in its stock price. Read about it here.
 
They're still b*st*rds, though. Fancy picking on a grumpy old man.
 

 
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