Google ... some results may show racial bias, according to a study. Photo: Reuters
Googling a new acquaintance is second nature, whether it's a date or potential employee. A huge disadvantage, however, is having your name automatically associated with arrest, even if you've never had a record.
One study by a Harvard professor says some of Google's ads discriminate, linking "racially associated" names to a possible criminal background. Government and technology professor Latanya Sweeney searched 2184 full names on Google and Reuters.com, which uses Google AdWords advertisements. She found that "black identifying" names were more likely to show ads suggesting arrest, as compared to "white identifying" names.
Names more commonly associated with black people, such as DeShawn, Darnell and Jermaine, suggested criminal ads in 81 to 86 per cent of searches on one site, and up to 95 per cent on the other. Names such as Geoffrey, Jill and Emma, more typically associated with white people, resulted in these types of ads 23 to 29 per cent of the time on one site and 0 to 60 per cent on the other, Sweeney's study says.
Searching "Latonya Evans" resulted in ads saying, "Latonya Evans, Arrested?" while the name Laurie Ryan gave a result of "Background of Laurie Ryan".
InstantCheckmate, the website whose ads dominated studied results, told Sweeney the company gave the same ad text to Google for groups of last names. In response, Google says they don't conduct racial profiling.
"AdWords does not conduct any racial profiling," they said in a statement to ABC News. "We also have a policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organisation, person or group of people. It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads."
Sweeney says more research is needed and the study is only a starting point, but suggests possible blame on Google's algorithm and financial interests with advertisers.
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