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Is Google a Dirty Thief? What Do You Think?

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

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thiefSince it’s inception, Google has always taken a little bit of people’s content from their website in order to show their search result listings with a description.  For the most part, no one had a problem with that because the content was being used in a way that brought more traffic to people’s websites.  That, however, is changing and some people aren’t happy about it.

Accusations Over the Years:
For a while now there have been complaints about Google stealing content.  News media outlets, especially in Europe sued Google over their use of headlines, snippets, and images in Google news.  Google just settled a 7 year lawsuit with major book publishers because Google started digitizing every book they could find and offering them, at least in part, online.  There have also been complaints and lawsuits over Google’s image search which now shows people full sized images, many which are copyrighted, without people ever having to visit the site the image is on.

Google Knowledge Graph:
In 2012, Google started to display information from Google Knowledge Graph in their search results.  Knowledge Graph is Google’s current repository of knowledge that it has collected over the years.  It has two primary purposes.  The first is to help Google search algorithm to be able to understand what people are searching for better and understand the relationships between things.  This should help provide better search results.  No one has a problem with that.  The second purpose is so, when possible, Google can provide information and answers directly in the search results instead of your having to click-through to someone’s website.  That’s where it starts to get a little questionable.

Google doesn’t usually just know these things.  Google is getting this information from other sources.  In some cases they are public sources of free information, but in other cases they are not.  In some cases the information is obtained from someone else’s website and Google puts it into their search results, though most of the time giving credit to the originator of the information.  Of course, if the searcher already found the answer they were looking for, will they continue on and visit the site where the information came from?  Not usually.  Now, they have even started showing other people’s full recipes in knowledge graph.

Google Knowledge Vault:
Now Google has taken it a step further and said they have built a massive program that is scouring the web looking for information.  It’s called Google Knowledge Vault.  It’s already accumulated over 1.6 Billion “facts”.  I put facts in quotes because they are only confident on the accuracy of about 17% of those “facts”.  (Accuracy of Google Knowledge Graph/Vault information is a whole other issue as it has been found that it’s wrong about 20% of the time.)

So, why are they doing this?  Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt has already said that they want to make it so Google can answer people’s questions without ever having to link out to any other website.

“we’re trying to move from answers that are link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where we can actually compute the right answer.”

Google wants to get you an answer for your question as quickly as possible.

Is This Ethical or Moral?
The question is are they going about it in a moral and ethical way.  Is it alright to scour the web with a massive program to gather the information other people have put on their websites and then use it on their own site?  Well, you tell me.  I’d like to know what you think.

Is Google Stealing Content or Legitimately Gathering and Providing Information?

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Will Webmasters Start Blocking Google:
This is the question presented by Brittany Page in a recent article.  It’s a legitimate question.  If you have a website that is primarily about providing information, especially exclusive information, should you start blocking Google to keep them from crawling and gathering your information?  It’s not easily answerable, though, because there is a cost.  If you completely keep Google from crawling your site, you won’t be getting traffic from Google searches and that could be too high a price to pay.  Another option, however, would be to put the exclusive content in forms that Google can’t read.  Maybe you put some information in the text and optimize the page so Google can read and rank the page, but then put some information as an image or using Flash so Google can’t read it.

Does This Affect SEO?
Yes and no.  If you are simply in the business of providing information, then, yes, it could affect you.  If you provide services or products, are a church or a school, are a ministry that serves people, etc.  Then it shouldn’t really affect you.  Google can’t do those things…yet 😉  So, for these most types of organizations, SEO is still a key element to the success of your website.  You should just periodically search for your organization and make sure the information Google presents is accurate.

Tell us what you think:

  • If you haven’t already, cast your vote in the poll above.
  • Then tell us what you think in the comments below.  Is this all legit or is theft on a massive scale?
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About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


  • I think they're stealing for sure, but there is nothing I would ever do about it. They provide so much value to the world, and the VAST majority of content producers are willing to sacrifice a little of their rights because Google gives them SOOOO much more in return.

    • Thanks J. T. I think you're probably thinking the same way most webmasters / content producers are thinking. Even if Google gets a little grabby, you don't bite the hand that feeds you.

  • Whooaaaa hold on there J.T. so if Google does this it's ok????? But when I use content as an artist in Videos on Google property YouTube it's copyright infringement? When the law has proven if I change the art or content in a manner or fashion different than the original it becomes a new art form. Well they're not changing anything copyright infringement. No way Google.

  • As someone who relies a lot on Google for traffic, I can't say I'm too pleased as well. But then I remember that Google's aim is to provide the best results for searchers.. and I can sort of see why they want to do that. Oh well, we don't pay Google a cent, so they shouldn't really be expected to help us websites. (unless you pay for Adwords)

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