Question 1: A Search Engine Is…?

I’ve been attending a few of the many think-ins that the publishing industry, pressure groups and various other institutions have been having recently around the subject of The Internet and What Is Means For Us.

Sadly, these have been largely unnoteworthy, although my attendance at the IPPR event last night “The Long Tail: Opportunities in a New Marketplace?” threw up an example of what I hope is not a very wide misconception about Google and search engines in general.

Although I was staring into my crotch at the time, I think it was Shaun Woodward MP, Minister for Creative Industries, and a member of the panel at the IPPR seminar who said (and I paraphrase fully in the knowledge that there will be a podcast or something of the event) that he was worried that Google had all this information about you that could be searched for by anyone, and did this not raise issues about the control of information and was it all not a bit worrying?

This amazing display of technical ignorance, on a par at least with American politicians, would have been surprising enough were is not for the fact that at a previous event I attended one of the panelists (a Society of Authors muchkin I think) started ranting about how she had found a picture of herself on Google Images and how shamelessly cavalier Google was in flouting the law by removing the photographer’s attribution from it.

Right now, it seems acceptable to let slip that you might not know jack crap about the Internet (the audiences in both cases simply sighed slightly), but I hope there will come a time when revealing such things results in some sort of instant removal from the arena – or something satisfying anyway.