For the most part, Google’s autocomplete feature is beneficial. If you’re looking for a specific item, person, or other search term, autocomplete identifies these terms with other terms in order to provide you with the right kinds of information. However, there are some instances when Google’s autocomplete doesn’t benefit certain people. One such instance happened recently in Japan.
A man who lives in Japan was consistently associated with a crime that took place in Japan. For some reason, Google’s autocomplete (totally controlled by an automatic algorithm), associates the man’s name with the particular crime that some people have been Googling. As you might have guessed, this man (and his lawyers) does not want to be associated with a crime that he claims he had nothing to do with. As a result, the Japanese Government is demanding that Google do something about the autocomplete problem.
A Case-By-Case Issue
The Japanese case listed above is not the first instance of a Google autocomplete search gone wrong. Not too long ago, a French court demanded that Google remove any search terms associating a specific insurance company in France with the words “crook” and “con man.” Presumably, every time someone in France would search for that particular insurance agent, the words “crook” and “con man” would pop up (the reverse is also true).
While it may seem logical to ask Google to make sure that all search terms are, in fact, properly and fairly associated with the right people and instances, it would be difficult for Google to go through its autocomplete database and pull out all possibly offensive terms. Even though some want Google to make sure that autocomplete details are accurate, Google defends its searches by stating that the whole thing is automated and based on algorithms, and, therefore, impossible to comb through on a case-by-case basis. Right now, Google is looking into the Japanese affair, though the company hasn’t made any moves (at the time of this writing) to correct the problem.
Negative Side Effects
There’s no doubt that Google is gaining a lot of media attention surrounding the previous French court story and now the Japanese story, but what about the man who can’t get a job thanks to an inaccurate Google search? Further, if Google doesn’t stop these strange word associations from happening, many more people may lose out on work and other possibilities thanks to a search gone haywire.
Asking Google to consider every possible word association angle isn’t fair (and would be timely and costly on the part of the search giant), but it seems as though Google will have to find some other solution to this issue. Otherwise, Google might risk losing its current search title if another search company pops up that doesn’t base its searching on incorrect autocompletes. As Google looks for a way to combat this issue, the public as a whole is becoming more and more uncomfortable with the way that Google searches are handled, which might cost the search company thousands of users.