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Google and the Search for Federal Government Information

A couple of weeks ago, Bonnie Klein, of the Defense Technical Information Center, submitted a comment here with a link to an article she wrote about the effectiveness of using Google and other commercial search tools to find government information. I recommend it highly:

In it, Klein notes that “Google and other search engines are commercial enterprises, not public utilities.” She addresses in particular the fact that government information gets no priority in ranking of search results: “Business operations and revenue-generating advertising partnerships, not altruism, factor into page ranking.”

The article examines legal, technical, commercial, and copyright issues, and includes many useful citations.

For example, she quotes, Donna Bogatin from ZDNet, who observes that “By requiring that Web pages have inbound links from third-party Web sites, the PageRank based algorithm may result in automatic exclusion of the most relevant pages for a given query simply because no other Websites have linked to them.” (Google Search Page Rank Excludes Relevant Websites, by Donna Bogatin. ZDNet, January 26, 2007).

This is a good reminder of how government web sites that make it difficult to link to documents (“Documents that exist within databases on GPO Access cannot be bookmarked”) automatically lower their PageRank.

Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Bonnie for this useful article!

See also: Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines, Center for Democracy and Technology.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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