Against the legal backdrop of proceedings against Google in various jurisdictions regarding the layout of its search results page, this article presents the results of a survey of a representative sample of 1014 Australian consumers, investigating their use of the Internet and specifically Google’s search engine, and the implications of these findings for consumer law and policy concerning the operation of search engines. The study is the first of its kind in Australia, despite litigation against Google in this jurisdiction for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct.
The survey findings indicate consumers have a lack of understanding about the operation and origin of the different elements of the Google search engine. In particular, the findings show particular confusion in relation to the operation and origin of Google's related vertical services. Such confusion seems to be more pronounced among older respondents and those without higher education qualifications, although the survey revealed some more surprising and unexpected results in terms of the demographics of confusion.
These findings are important for several reasons. Firstly, they identify and point to a gap in consumer knowledge about Google search that should be addressed, presenting an opportunity for consumer education in this area. Secondly, this research challenges the widely held assumption that the average (Australian) Internet user has a basic understanding about the operation and function of the Google search engine. Thirdly, the results leave open the possibility for further proceedings against Google in Australia on the basis of consumer law, the decision in Google v ACCC notwithstanding. This points to the potential for a more active role for consumer law in the digital ecosystem to address problems emanating from large and powerful platform providers such as Google than it previously has occupied.The Daly & Scardamaglia article is highly commendable.
'Social Data Discovery and Proportional Privacy' by Agnieszka McPeak in (2016) 65(1) Cleveland State Law Review notes that
Social media platforms aggregate large amounts of personal information as “social data” that can be easily downloaded as a complete archive. Litigants in civil cases increasingly seek out broad access to social data during the discovery process, often with few limits on the scope of such discovery. But unfettered access to social data implicates unique privacy concerns — concerns that should help define the proper scope of discovery.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended in 2015, already contain the tools for crafting meaningful limits on intrusive social data discovery. In particular, the proportionality test under Rule 26 weighs the burdens of discovery against its benefits, creating important boundaries on discovery’s scope. Privacy burdens should be part of the proportionality analysis. By considering the privacy implications of social data discovery, courts can fashion fair and meaningful limits on its scope.