As Google’s Eric Schmidt testifies before a Senate committee inquiring into the company’s search practices, he is facing many questions about the way that its search product works.
Many of the questions so far have been about the way that Google ranks search results for companies, especially when Google offers a comparable product. The example of product pricing comparison sites and Google’s own product comparison engine was used to demonstrate that Google’s results consistently appeared higher on the list than most other sites.
To this, Schmidt replied:
First, we built search for users, not websites, and no matter what we do, there will always be some websites unhappy with where they rank. Search is subjective, and there‟s no “correct” set of search results. Our scientific process is designed to provide the answers that consumers will find most
To this end, Schmidt was saying that certain answers, like stock results and maps, would simply be delivered straight to the consumer instead of being delivered as a result that led to another site. Schmidt said that this was in order to serve the consumer faster with the information that they required.
He was also quizzed about the way that certain Google results almost always appeared third on the list in a study that was done of product searches. This inquiry was made by Sen. Lee who accused Google of fixing the results saying, “either way, you’ve cooked it.”
Schmidt replied by saying, “senator, I can assure you we have not cooked anything.”
He then went on to say that he would need to look at the data that the study was based on before he could comment further.
Sen. Lee then said that he still had concerns related to the way that Google’s other services are given priority on its search pages. He said that they “used the leverage” of Google’s search dominance to drive consumers to those results instead of other sites.
He used a quote that was referred to often in the hearing from Google’s Marisa Mayer: “We do all the work for the search page, so we put [Google Maps] first.”
This quote was used to question whether Google was, in fact, fairly applying its search algorithms to its own content, as well as the content coming from outside sources.
In all, the hearing managed to put a lot of questions out there but not a lot of real answers to the major issues appeared to be forthcoming. Sen. Franken said that he, for one, would be submitting additional written questions, so perhaps we’ll be seeing some information there.