Too big to trust? Google’s growing credibility gap

Galen Gruman writes: Remember when we all loved Google? Its search engine was both simple to use and an unbiased portal to anything you wanted to know. It was founded by two college students at a time when Silicon Valley was a shining beacon of what was right in the world, during sunny economic and political times.

We don’t love Google so much any more, mainly because we trust it less and less. More and more people have realized that the Google search engine is hugely biased in favor of advertisers, and the results are increasingly manipulated by Google for inscrutable purposes. Google seems to track anything and everything we do — it peruses our emails, our files stored on its servers, our locations, and our chats. Americans are getting nervous.

When Google bought smart thermostat maker Nest earlier this year, the public recoiled — Nest owners didn’t want their thermometers to be the latest spying portal in their homes for Google to use. That negative reaction drove home the growing Google trust problem. Likewise, no one really believed that Google wasn’t participating in the NSA’s spying on users; it seemed a clear case of the lady doth protest too much. Plus, we saw how much Google is spying on us, whether or not in support of the NSA. If anything, Google’s response seemed to be indignation that the NSA was piggybacking on Google’s own privacy-mining efforts.

For most people, Google is still a shining star. It ranks as the second-most valuable brand in the world, after Apple and before Coca-Cola, a ranking that has grown in recent years. It’s also at the top of the rankings for best places to work. It’s not as if Google has yet become Facebook, whose abuse of personal information is assumed. But the cracks in Google’s reputation are growing. [Continue reading…]

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