Find (if ye know how to seek)

It’s a few days old now, but I just ran across a post over on TorrentFreak describing how Google has started removing “torrent”-related results from its auto-complete search results:

Without a public notice Google has compiled a seemingly arbitrary list of keywords for which auto-complete is no longer available. Although the impact of this decision does not currently affect full search results, it does send out a strong signal that Google is willing to censor its services proactively, and to an extent that is far greater than many expected.

Among the list of forbidden keywords are “uTorrent”, a hugely popular piece of entirely legal software and “BitTorrent”, a file transfer protocol and the name of San Fransisco based company BitTorrent Inc. As of today [1/26/2011], these keywords will no longer be suggested by Google when you type in the first letter, nor will they show up in Google Instant.

All combinations of the word “torrent” are also completely banned. This means that “Ubuntu torrent” will not be suggested as a user types in Ubuntu, and the same happens to every other combination ending in the word torrent. This of course includes the titles of popular films and music albums, which is the purpose of Google’s banlist.

This is quite an interesting development.  Personally, I have found Google’s auto-complete functionality very helpful in finding the names of half-remembered items.  It is a disturbing reminder of just how much control Google exerts–not only over what we find, but over what we search for.