Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

Summary: A Senator charges that Google is cooking links to favor its own properties. Google's Eric Schmidt said "I can assure you we haven't cooked anything."

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Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and a panel of senators agreed to disagree over whether the search giant favors its own properties over competitors.

Schmidt's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust boiled down to trust us. Schmidt referenced Microsoft as a company that looked unbeatable 20 years ago, but ultimately missed the curve on mobile and other trends.

The message: "The Internet is the ultimate level playing field," said Schmidt, who portrayed Google as a company working to put consumers first over profits. "We focus on loyalty not lock-in."

In other words, Schmidt's testimony boiled down to trust us.

The early fireworks appeared when Sen. Michael S. Lee (R-UT) produced data that showed that Google's owned and operated properties often were among the top links. Schmidt said that Google aimed to give answers quickly and sometimes engineering dictated that a stock quote from Google Finance was faster than the "10 links answer." That rationale from Schmidt also applied to Maps and other areas.

Lee asked Schmidt whether Google products and services are subject to the same search ranking algorithm process as all organic search results. He was intimating that Google favors its own "secondary" product in search result. Schmidt explained that if Google knows the answer to a query, "it is better for the consumer for us to answer the question," and use its our data resources. "I am not aware of any boosts or bias" in the search results, Schmidt said.

Also: CNET: Google "rigs" search, results rivals tell senators

Lee gave an example of a product search where the result appears to include a result from Google consistently high up on the first page of results.  "You've cooked it so you are always third," Lee charged.

"Senator, I can assure you we have not cooked anything," Schmidt calmly said.

Google's overall message is that the company is different because it operates in an open Internet where consumers are a click away from another service. Schmidt believes that the huge base of Google users provides a kind of governance that makes the company trustworthy "The ultimate correction against any mistake is how consumers behave," Schmidt said. "People have choices…our customers want quick and accurate answers, and the way we correct ourselves is if they switch."

Schmidt's point on users switching leading to how Google treats its search results seems to assume that its hundreds of millions of users are sophisticated enough to understand the intricacies of search results and any favoritism Google may be lending to its own products and service.

However, Schmidt is right that Google is compelled to make it easy for searchers to find good answers, but the product search above shows that it gives its own product database a more favorable treatment, if not rank.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) said that an investigation of Google's business practices had to boil down to trust but verify. Schmidt noted that he could go with that. "I agree with trust, but verify," said Schmidt. "We live in great fear that consumers will switch."

Other highlights from the hearing:

  • Schmidt opened up his testimony with a reference to Microsoft and how it looked unbeatable 20 years ago.
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he was shocked by some of generalizations in Schmidt's answers. "If the chairman doesn't know this who does?" said Franken, who had a big beef with the lack of specifics from Schmidt.
  • Franken also noted that he found Yelp's testimony about Google's business practices troubling.
  • Charles Schumer's (D-NY) 7-minute questioning period equated to a monologue about technology in his state and an appeal for Google to expand there.

CBS News' Dan Farber contributed to this report.

Related: Google goes to Capitol Hill: Messaging wars next

Topics: Browser, Apps, Enterprise Software, Google

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49 comments
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  • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

    Then assure me and show me the code.
    LoverockDavidson_-24231404894599612871915491754222
    • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

      @LoverockDavidson_ <br>Lets have all companies show there proprietary code then.
      daikon
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        @daikon

        Why? Google is open. Why wouldn't they show the code?
        dhmccoy
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        Its called proprietary code for a reason.
        daikon
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        @daikon Proprietary code you mean
        xpect
      • I thought Google was &quot;open&quot; and &quot;transparent&quot;?

        @daikon

        They are always using those words and getting their loyal acolytes to repeat them over and over and over and over.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        @daikon
        I know one thing for sure....they continually tweek their algorythms and I am sure after each tweek if their own products are not consistently at or near the top they say don't just say..."well or would have though..meh who cares". I bet it is more like "oh shit...re-tweak the algorythm"
        global.philosopher
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        They never claimed to be completely open. They claimed to have OSS, such as Android, and they claimed to support FOSS. Both of these statements are true.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

      @LoverockDavidson_ nah...can;t believe it...Google aren't evil...they say so and so do all the geeks. Google are as pure as the driven snow so leave them alone to keep on cooking their results.
      global.philosopher
  • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

    <I>"In other words, Schmidt???s testimony boiled down to trust us."</I>

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Another laugher...

      "... said Schmidt, who portrayed Google as a company [b]working to put consumers first over profits[/b]. ???We focus on loyalty not lock-in.???

      One of the funniest lies..., oops, lines of the year.
      MacCanuck
    • Suggestion

      @Cylon Centurion <br>Well, those senators could also do very useful things for the majority of their electorate, the consumers, and at once give the impressing that they know about what they are talking.<br>Even they should understand that it take 5 seconds to switch between free search engines. But that it is much more difficult to not pay for an OS you don't want. And that problem exists quite longer than the one they were treating now, despite a number of measures to stop the improper protection of that monopoly.<br>They could invent a kind of ballot form for choosing your OS. Or make illegal charging more for an OS if you want to try things first and do not want to buy it together with your hardware.<br>And, what's more, they would look also smarter by showing they are not influenced by payed PR campaigns against Google as the one Facebook admitted. And the onces that are the most logical explanation for some bizarre, poorly substantiated attacks against it.
      somereader
  • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

    And AT&T Uverse and Comcast don't 'cook' their broadband networks to favor only their content and financially punish those who download from other content providers (Netflix, Amazon movies, etc).
    Mack Swift
    • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

      @Mack Swift
      We don't live in a perfect world. Only those with dominant market share have to be play fair. It may not seem fair but it is the law that all companies understand and play by and they know if they don't like it they can lobby the government...I know Google does.
      global.philosopher
  • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

    Google provides the search service free of charge to its users. Who is the government to dictate whether or not it should have the right to include its own results wherever it chooses? If Google offered a paid search service, where terms of use stated that all results would be 100-percent unbiased, then there???s room to suggest that Google is breaking contract with its subscribers. I am in no way an ardent fan of Google, but I???m appalled that the government would get this obtrusive in their measures to meddle with the company. I use Google search under the full assumption that I???ll see results from other Google properties. It just makes sense. Using the Senators??? logic, we should expect to see equal advertising on Coke cans for Pepsi products...
    adante256
  • We never cooked a thing!

    "we prefer to call it "Fry" or "Broil, so technically, we never cooked the links..." ;)
    William Farrell
  • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

    It looks like those senators are against monopoly, in fact, they are protecting the monoply in OS by Microsoft. Google is the only one coming up with real challenges to MS's monoply, if Google's strong hold in search is damaged, MS will enjoy the billions of billions of easy money from its sloppy softwares forever.
    Stupid senators.
    lanjian45
    • So you are saying...

      @lanjian45 ...that Apple does not exist?
      itpro_z
      • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

        @itpro_z
        Apple is just as any other company, if they'd really cared so much about there precious consumers then they would drop prices of all their products with at least 100$.
        Maybe you should check their history to recall the numerous lies towards their consumers ("mallware? no sir, that's not possible, you must be wrong. thanks for calling!")
        belli_bettens
    • RE: Google's Schmidt, Senators bicker over whether links were 'cooked'

      @lanjian45 LOL! Can I have a hit from that bong you're smoking? Microsoft has a monopoly in one area and one area only, operating systems. Full operating systems that is. Mobile operating systems are not the same and are not comparable.

      So please tell me what credible challenge Google has against Windows? Chrome OS? Don't make me laugh. It's already a masssive fail, and has no hope of competing against Windows. So no, Google is no challenge to Windows.

      I'm sorry you delusional idiot, but even if Google offered a challenged to Windows, it does not mean they should be allowed to get away with what they've been getting away with. That's a stupid argument.
      jhammackHTH