16 Google

Google Logo
Google logo as of 2015 via Wikimedia Commons

Background

The history of Google began in 1995 when Stanford University student Larry Page met a man named Sergey Brin. They initially worked on a search engine called BackRub that was used at Stanford for about a year. It wasn’t until September 15, 1997 that Google.com was registered. In 1998, Google was set as a private company  and while a small startup in a garage with one employee, the future to come set up the path for the company to become the giant we know today.

Growth: In the first couple years of operation, the company received offers for a buyout, even going up to one million dollars. While Page and Brin considered this so they could go back to focus on their studies, they declined. In late 1999, google received a $25 million dollar investment that significantly boosted its growth. Google’s rise combined with the fall of the giant at the time, Yahoo, significantly helped Google grow and become the powerhouse it is today. As it grew, Google began to add more services such as ads, images, and a defining moment in 2005 when they added maps. Google expanded more and more from office to office and then worldwide. Eventually, Google’s success lead them to invest in stuff of their own, for example investing 200 million dollars in a wind farm. They also bought YouTube for $1.65 billion dollars. Today, Google’s logo is one that half the world recognizes and it is one of the most valuable companies of our time. Also, Google has officially become the verb that people are widely acknowledge. There are so many more important milestones in Google’s journey.

Google Today

Google is owned by Alphabet Inc. However, the Alphabet CEO is one of the original creators of Google, Larry Page. Google is currently run by a man named Sundar Pichai. Its stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and, while they are very successful in their mission, Google goes much further than just that. Google is a giant service that provides the most recent news, email services, document services, and the list goes on and on. It is used in the everyday life of American people and other people around the world.  It is not just a website but a platform to connect the world.

Financial

In its 2017 Annual report, Google reported it generates most of its revenues from advertising. This includes sales of apps, purchases made in-app, digital content products on Google and YouTube, Android, and licensing and service fees, including fees received for Google Cloud offerings. 46% of this was from clicks (cost per clicks), amounting to US$109,652 million in 2017. This includes three principal methods, namely AdMob, AdSense (such as AdSense for Content, AdSense for Search, etc.) and DoubleClick AdExchange.

For the 2006 fiscal year, the company reported $10.492 billion in total advertising revenues and only $112 million in licensing and other revenues.In 2011, 96% of Google’s revenue was derived from its advertising programs. In addition to its own algorithms for understanding search requests, Google uses technology from a company they acquired, DoubleClick, to project user interest and target advertising to the search context and the user history.

In 2007, Google launched “AdSense for Mobile”, taking advantage of the emerging mobile advertising market.

Google Analytics allows website owners to track where and how people use their website, for example by examining click rates for all the links on a page. Google advertisements can be placed on third-party websites in a two-part program. Google’s AdWords allows advertisers to display their advertisements in the Google content network, through a cost-per-click scheme.The sister service, Google AdSense, allows website owners to display these advertisements on their website and earn money every time ads are clicked. One of the criticisms of this program is the possibility of click fraud, which occurs when a person or automated script clicks on advertisements without being interested in the product, causing the advertiser to pay money to Google unduly. Industry reports in 2006 claimed that approximately 14 to 20 percent of clicks were fraudulent or invalid.

Data

Like any other website or forum that you can create an account on, Google gathers information about people, which can be concerning for some. Google has access to your name, birthday, and gender, your password and phone number, emails you write and receive on Gmail, photos and videos you save, Docs, Sheets, and Slides you create on Drive, comments you make on YouTube, contacts you add, and calendar events.

News

There are two ways that users can find news on Google. The first way Google can represent news is by using its search engine that helps users find the most relevant news. How Google does this is by matching our search keywords with texts from different websites which will be relevant to our search. Users often try to place their sites prominently by using Search Engine Optimization, attempting to influence the order in which website/pages appear when we search for something. We can also think of Google and the internet as the internet being like a Library and Google like the librarian who shows us the information which it thinks might be useful for us. Since Google’s results ranking algorithm is proprietary, we really can’t know for sure how it works.

The only limit that available right now is the keywords choice from users because Google Search Algorithm gives user more accurate result base on the region of users. Suppose we have users in the US and users in Asia countries search for the same topic, there are chances that Google gives different results. We can consider how different the search result that users in some countries like North Korea and China will get from users in Europe or America. Also, this sorting algorithm is based on the keywords of your search, and since not everyone typing an idea the same way, different search results will appear based on the keywords that they look up. The results might also be affected by the location of user. This is the main idea of this search algorithm: “Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.” As the company explains,

With the amount of information available on the web, finding what you need would be nearly impossible without some help sorting through it. Google ranking systems are designed to do just that: sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in our Search index to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second, and present them in a way that helps you find what you’re looking for.

The second way is using Google News. Every user that has a Google account can use this function. This function has a headlines newsfeed and also offer users specific categories that users are looking for. This is a nice feature of Google that allows user update news constantly. Google uses sources from popular channel like Fox News, CNN and The New York Times. Google shows the sources with the title so users can have multiple options to choose for their sources.

The News feature is developing fact checking tools to helps users check the accountability of their source of news. This is an extremely helpful tools for social and political violence because this feature does not just representing news but it is also show articles that respond and warn people about the fake news that some unreliable sources posted.

Since Google will show users different results base on users keywords, there might be a chance that Google will also show the unreliable sources. However,  the ranking systems will also help to prevent those unreliable sources from appearing on the front sites of the search so unless users look for those sources on purpose but, there is no possible way to completely eliminate this.

Some people are able to push unreliable sources onto the front by taking advantage of phrases that may not be as mainstream or used very often. So when these phrases are searched, the non-mainstream or extremists sites show up. It is a problem that is very hard to get around because there is no way to stop it besides completely restricting some words or phrases which goes against what Google wants.

In general, Google is a very effective search engine that helps users find the most reliable sources to their search. It also has a feature that allow user to update news with reliable sources. Google has been an effective tools for users to find their answers for many years and now it also helps people to take in information from reliable sources. With the size of Google right now, this new feature of Google has an important meaning to social and political violence. It allows users to find the right answer as long as they willing to look for it at the right source.

The problem with Google is that it relies more on the publishers reputation than following the search string algorithm. This leads to the users not finding the exact answers that they were looking for. This thing became huge when in 2016 Google put fake news with false numbers for its top search results about the 2016 Elections saying that Donald Trump won both the popular and electoral votes, which was not true.

Criticism of Google

The first criticism that users have about Google is click fraud. Click fraud occurs when Web site publishers click on ads on their site to boost their revenue or when companies click on rivals’ ads to eat away at their advertising budgets. Invalid clicks, for which Google does not charge advertisers, include inadvertent double clicks on an ad.  Since Google cannot provide data about click fraud, advertisers have to use third party companies to fight against click fraud. Industry reports say fraudulent clicks range from 14 percent to 20 percent of total clicks. Google has introduced a new system is called Adwords and customers will be able to see data on invalid clicks on a daily basis.

The second major criticism of Google is user privacy. On March 1st, 2012, Google began to allow sharing data across a wide variety of services. The policy was widely criticized for creating an environment that discourages Internet-innovation by making Internet users more fearful and wary about what they put online. Privacy International has raised concerns because of Google having a centrally-located widely popular data warehouse of millions of Internet users’ searches. At one point, Google could have been forced to hand over all such information to the U.S. government. In 2007, in its Consultation Report, Privacy International ranked Google as “Hostile to Privacy”, its lowest rating on their report, making Google the only company in the list to receive that ranking.

In the summer of 2016, Google quietly dropped its ban on including personally-identifiable info in its DoubleClick ad service. The policy was changed to state it “may” combine web-browsing records obtained through DoubleClick with what the company learns from the use of other Google services. While new users were automatically opted-in, existing users were asked if they wanted to opt-in, and it remains possible to opt-out by going to the “Activity controls” in the “My Account” page of a Google account. DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a portrait of a user by name, based on everything the user writes in their email, every website they visit, and the searches they conduct. Google responded that it doesn’t “currently” use Gmail keywords to target web ads.

Beside the two major threats that we mentioned, there are some other potential for data disclosure such as attacking user’s cookies, tracking, or Gmail. Because of the size of the company and the size of data that Google has to process, it will be extremely hard for Google to provide users different tools to protect themselves online. If users want to protect their data on a higher level they need to be equipped with products that cover their digital footprints.

Recommended Reading

7 Ways to Master the New Google News” by Michael Simon, PC World, June 20, 2018.

A Deep Look at Google’s Biggest-Ever Search Quality Crisis” by Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land, April 3, 2017.

Google Has a Striking History of Bias Against Black Girls” by Safiya Noble, Time, March 26, 2018.

Google Tried to Change China; China May End Up Changing Google” by Farad Majoo, The New York Times, August 22, 2018.

Google’s ‘Dirty Secret’ Allows Third Party Apps to Read Gmail Messages” by Steven Lerner, Tech Times, July 3, 2018.

 

License

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Clickbait, Bias, and Propaganda in Information Networks by Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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