SHCC WYSIWYG Article from May 2010

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the May 2010 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Big Brother's Tayloring Your Internet Search Results

by Don VanSyckel

I have used Google extensively and have hit Google maps a few time but not extensively. However over the course of the last few weeks I've had occasion to search for quite a few places on Google, not maps to them but data about them. Their web site, their address, that sort of stuff. I began to recognize a curious phenomena. Before I go any farther, as you read on you might say what's Don talking about? This magazine or that web site just had a big article about what he's writing about. Well that might be but I didn't read it, I figured this out or possibly I should say recognized this on my own. Maybe it's a conspiracy, maybe it simple techie tricks gone wild!

I was amazed that the names and phrases I was entering into Google mostly returned places around here, I mean places local to where I live. This amazement turned to wonder that no one anywhere else had chosen names for businesses other places in the nation that would have been returned by my search. The more items I searched on the more I wondered. Also the search results were coming back virtually instantaneously. This is some technology they have. Then it hit me, Google must be 'going behind my back' if you will and examining the IP address of my connection which can be crossed to my ISP. My ISP in turn can be crossed to a geographic location and hence the search was weighted or filtered by my location auto-magically.

If my guess above is correct or at least partially correct, I suspect if I had selected search result items outside the local area the search would have 'learned' that I was not looking for something locally and stopped the location filtering. Of course this is all speculation and all I have is observation. The speed at which Google returns search results is indeed scary in this vane. I can't even image how many terabytes of data Google has squirreled away and your search results are generally return before you finish clicking OK to do the search.

Then I had occasion to use Google maps. I suppose many if not most of you have seen Google maps. You can click your way down to where you, a virtual you, is standing in front of almost any house in the country. I don't know what resolution all those photos or video clips or whatever are stored at but there has to be the equivalent of a few hundred million photos which might use as much as a few hundred terabytes of storage. Now think about it, a company that is profit driven has collected or at least managed the collection of a few hundred terabytes of data. Stored the data, backed it up, and made it available via the web for free. A really great technical feat but except for some advertising I don't see the payback. Possibly someone will explain it to me.

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