Life before Google is almost unimaginable for those who went to libraries to learn about something that piqued their interest. Now Google is ubiquitous following the widespread use of the Internet and is almost synonymous with the world wide web. A quick, “hey, Google,” alerts a virtual assistant that has access to quite literally all of the world’s information does whatever you ask from letting you know tomorrow’s weather to the birthplace of Aristotle.
At the forefront of developing what is now known as a web search engine, Google learned and used what data people would input to improve the way it can retrieve better information faster. Throughout its past two decades, Google built its tech enterprise to what it is today, a multi-billion-dollar company which services grew after acquiring or developing more lucrative companies. Although the search engine provided information instantly at no financial cost to the user, its success came at a controversial and immeasurable cost that waded into uncharted technology one step ahead of global politics.
But at What Cost?
Google’s core purpose is its search engine service and since its inception, the algorithm used to retrieve information has become smarter and more adept to understand the user’s intentions. Two decades and over a billion searches later, rather than retrieving information that includes the keywords inputted, Google can measure the quality and relevancy of websites to weed out junk sites. Machine learning took over twenty years of data to understand what users were looking for.
This valuable information helped Google accelerate its worth because it provided anonymous, but personal data that became the key to online advertising. Following user queries and engagement metrics, Google sold optimal advertisement space on its results page to the highest bidder. Each advertised website and link would be clearly defined by other results with the label “Ad” and in a colored block.
Google’s Changed Search Results Page
Recently, Google rolled out its updated results page that removed the color distinction from ads and made the label smaller and in black. “Favicons” were added to each result for the intention for another way to personalize a company’s brand and for users to avoid fake news. But Internet users weren’t fooled. Under the guise of improving user experience, Google adjusted how ads were seen over time and slowly blended them into organic results.
Nefarious or Ingenious Intentions?
Just like a boiling frog, people have intertwined their daily lives to Google slowly and without realizing the potential dangers that could arise. Data privacy issues have been voiced in the past with the general public abhorring the sneaky ways giant Internet companies can collect their data and sell it off. But the same people freely input that data as well as accept the long, drawn out terms and services that 9.9/10 times no one reads.
Giant tech companies like Google provide conveniences for users who consent to the company collecting their data in order to use its services. Collecting personal data proves highly lucrative for companies, but users continue to unwittingly use and pay for “rewards” such as services and apps.