John Garner's Business Column
Google – still doing no evil?
Google still true to its motto? You’ll have noticed that, along
with their counterparts from Amazon and Starbucks, its senior
executives have been heavily criticised for avoiding UK tax, albeit
legally. Being criticised for using a legal loophole by MPs, many not
exactly whiter than white themselves, seems to me the height of
hypocrisy – but let’s not dwell on that.
The trouble is
we rely so much on Google it's frightening. Google's search engine is
the first port of call for practically every Internet user when they
want to find something online. Even if you know the web address of a
site, it is still often easier just to type its name into Google to
find it. I do it a lot, in fact it’s the only search engine I can
be bothered to use, and it works very well.
amount of power dictates what we see online, because if a site isn't
indexed by Google, then no one will be able to find it. Google's power
stems from the fact that it actually makes it easier than most other
search engines to find the pages we want, based on its page ranking
algorithms which list sites in the search results based on how popular
most people have been quite satisfied that Google ranks their results
fairly, so that the most popular sites for a particular search term are
put at the top of the listing. But what happens when governments decide
to start interfering with Google's ranking process? We may be about to
You see, major
international entertainment companies have been up in arms for some
time that users can use search engines such as Google to easily find
sites that carry pirated films and music. They've been making such a
fuss that Google have promised to push results from illegal file
sharing websites down the search listing.
But now the UK
government is reviewing Google's pledge to make sure that it is
actually doing that. It seems that Google doesn't really want to
falsely change the search results based on pressure from outside
interests – it would rather just rank sites based on their
popularity, so it’s dragging its feet.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the government agency
which oversees these things, is not happy with Google. It is coming
under pressure from the entertainment companies too, so it’s
looking into how it can force Google to make the changes. The Culture
Secretary (Maria Miller nowadays, not that Jeremy Hunt fellow) has even
threatened to introduce a new law as part of a forthcoming
communications bill to force Google to make the changes if they don't
do it voluntarily.
rights and wrongs of online piracy, this is a very worrying
development. As soon as the government decides which information shows
up in web searches, it can use it to suppress sites it doesn't want us
buckles to pressure from one special interest group, it'll find it more
difficult to ignore the lobbying of other similar groups, and then the
Internet will stop being an unregulated place to share ideas. Instead,
it will become just another massive messaging board for advertisers to
sell us things.
..and another thing…
you’re a PC user with Internet Explorer 9 (or an earlier version)
you should urgently download the latest security patch from Microsoft.
There’s a serious problem.
Anyone, and it
could be you, visiting a malicious website using an unpatched version
of IE could expect to have their user account taken over by hackers.
The attack works by exploiting the bug in IE to run malicious code on a
targeted PC. Once one malware infection has managed to lodge in a
vulnerable PC it goes on to download further infections.
If you have
Windows configured to automatically apply available updates, you can
check whether the patch has been installed yet by clicking Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features (Add or Remove Programs in XP). Click View installed updates (tick Show updates in XP).
Look through the list of installed updates for the one with the code number KB2744842.
If this is present, then your system is safe. If not, you'll need to
install it as soon as possible. If you have automatic updates switched
on you should have it by now – I’ve just checked and I have.
If not, the easiest way to do so is to use Windows Update to apply the fix. To start Windows Update, click Start > All Programs > Windows Update.
Good luck and don’t get caught out.
John Garner - Business Correspondent