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Searching to regulate Google


Themes: Information systems and technology

Michael BarrettClearer regulatory guidelines are needed to prevent Internet search engines abusing their dominant positions

The European Union’s decision to investigate allegations against the internet search engine giant, Google, has been welcomed by Dr Michael Barrett, Cambridge Judge Business School’s Reader in Information Technology & Innovation.

He feels that there is a need for clearer guidelines that should take in many of the practices currently used across the Internet search engine industry. There is, he says, a case for all the stakeholders to get together to look at the possibilities of regulation.

“The EU’s investigation into Google has raised the ante through global coverage. There are institutional forums in place like the Internet Governance Summit where, if it can get onto the agenda next year, there’s chance it will not fizzle out.”

Dr Barrett feels strongly that self-regulation, similar to that introduced by the Federal Trades Commission (FTC) 10 years ago, is a way forward. Firms where then persuaded to carefully disclose their ‘unbiased’ results and their ‘paid-for’ revenues.

“We need clearer guidelines. We need to agree upon what’s illicit. Take for example ‘black hat optimisation’ versus ‘white hat optimisation’, which is permitted.

“Where we can have a discussion with all the stakeholders as to what those guidelines should be and if the FTC, a similar organisation or regulatory body can help to promote and instill these practices as guidelines – then we have a chance of moving in the right direction,” says Dr Barrett.