tedster - 1:37 am on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)
I've read a good bit of this now, and I see at least two critical factors for consumer protection:
I'm not enough of a data science geek to know the answer to question #1. But it seems to me like there are enough very clever people in the field that something could be done if there were a will to do it.
With a strong enough public opinion, I hope we see Google becoming more of a leading force for the good. They seemed to have that inclination. At least they are making some of the right noises, even if their own implementation is falling far short for the moment, such as opt-in by default for personalized search results.
Google's Dashboard is a baby step [webmasterworld.com], but a decent one. It's still a lot more than my sister-in-law will be willing to take in. She will need very clear directions, focused just on search and right there on the main page.
There is enough idealism in the Google ranks that, just maybe, the engineer idealists can overrule the bottom line bean counters. I'm more concerned that the FTC will be flummoxed by the corporate interests, rather than embracing their mandate to be a consumer protection arm.
I'm remembering now the "public be damned" attitude attributed to railroad tycoon Vanderbuilt. It took many decades from that point to bring railroad safety in line - and in the process of achieving that safety, government involvement also had a negative and depressive effect on the entire US rail industry.
That's also a direction I don't want to see - so much government meddling with the web that it loses its power and potential.