Thursday, January 27, 2011

Google, autocomplete, filtering - where next?

Google have begun rollout of the second round of autocomplete filters. If you're not familiar with autocomplete, and the filtering... here's the background: Google introduced auto-complete to their "search" box to make life easy for the terminally lazy - for example, when I start typing "web filter" into google, it handily suggests adding "bypass" on the end. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks! The next development was google "instant" - where search results were displayed for your half-completed terms. Soon, autocomplete got filtering - ostensibly to save the blushes of innocent searchers whose half-completed thoughts turned out to match vaguely pornographic terms. "Hot chi" for example will quickly stop autocompleting.

So that's the autocomplete filter - mostly "adult" content under scrutiny... some drug use type phrases. The next addition though is "copyright infringement searches" - now I don't personally see how not completing "torrent" is going to help reduce piracy - joe warez isn't going to sit at his PC and type "tor" and then think "nah, can't be bothered!" and search for "tortelini" instead. No, I don't rightly see the advantage. It stirred up a veritable hornets' nest of "free speechers" though, many of whom were conspicuous by their absence when the first lot of filtering was applied.

What interests me, from a web content filtering point of view, is the choice of terms. If we're going beyond "things that can cause embarrassment" to "things considered harmful by a. moralist" then where's the gambling terms? To my knowledge there isn't one that's filtered. My guess is that online gambling pays too well in google ads to make it worth filtering! On the other hand, powerful lobbying groups love to see torrent searches marginalised.

This has implications for web filtering types like Smoothwall - we have to help fill the gaps, especially in education - between what google is willing to keep out of searches, and what educators deem suitable for their young charges. Fun.

1 comment:

  1. Does smoothwall guardian support google instant search. We have been using dansguardian for some years but is causing major headaches with google instant.