Posted on September 23, 2011 by Jennifer Pointer

Well, it looks like Google is about to find out how big "too big" is.  In making good on it's promise to organize the World's information, it has drawn the attention of the U.S. Senate.  In an anti-trust hearing this week, Google officials found themselves in the awkward position of simultaneously trying to explain what only they know while also trying to prove they do not have a monopoly on the search engine market.


I think this issue is more complicated than a lot of the tech bloggers understand.  In a world where one a strong man's freedom is a weak man's anarchy (i.e. the drug search debacle) , it's hard to distinguish where there right balance of power is or should be.  The technical community tends to see this as the "evil" U.S. government picking on one of their own (see TechCrunch, and Mashable), and rush to Google's defense.  However, us older folks who grew up reading George Orwell's 1984 tend to get a "creepy" feeling as we see one company systematically becoming the main source for information. 


Google has done a lot of great things for the world of technology.  But with much power comes much responsibility, and it is still unclear what Google intends to do with all of that power and responsibility.  It's recent clash with some social networkers over its insistence of using their legally-documented names or having access to all of their Google documents, pictures, and Gmail blocked (see "nymwars"), Google has demonstrated that it's priority is serving its paying customers (companies which pay for the data Google is able to mine from users of its various services for targeted advertising).


Although Google keeps its algorithm top-secret, and changes it frequently to keep others from "gaming" its system, it has not escaped the notice of even the casual non-techie U.S. Senator that it is in a good position to game its own system and get its own products to the top of its search engine results pages - giving itself an unfair advantage in its own game.  Maybe sort of like that movie from the '30s, The Most Dangerous Game, in which the hunters are tricked into becoming the hunted?


It remains to be seen what will be Google's fate, but rest assured, now that a group of U.S. Senators has become aware of the vast amounts of money being filtered through the site (read: potential for tax revenue, and almost unlimited potential for revenue for regulatory fees), this "inquiry" is not over.  While the question will probably never be answered, it will continue to be asked: How big is too big?


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