Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has faced criticism for discrimination on many fronts in recent weeks. The problems began when it was revealed that the firm doesn’t employ a diverse labor base, and were driven by missteps with the firm’s AI. After calling a black couple “gorillas” the firm’s decision making platform has decided not to offer good jobs to women.
The new issue cropped up not with some experimental new AI, but with the firm’s core ad platform. Women, when browsing for jobs, are less likely to have executive level position advertised to them by Google. The firm’s ad platform is also accused of using health information to advertise to its users.
Research shows Google is sexist
The research that found out about Google’s lack of feminism came from three computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University. They used thousands of fake Google profiles to automatically crawl the web and record what kind of ads those accounts were served up. They found that Google uses data in some underhanded ways and takes shortcuts that could be seen to be downright discriminatory.
In the experiments the researchers found that men doing searches for jobs were shown a lot of executive level positions, while women were directed to recruiting firms as well as an auto parts dealer and Goodwill.
Another experiment showed that the fake users that searched for substance abuse related topics were served up ads related to rehab clinics. That’s an example of Google using what could be considered healthcare information in order to sell services to those using its search engine, or browsing sites that use its ad platform.
“We cannot claim that Google has violated its policies,” the research stated. Instead, they conclude that “Google has lost control over its massive, automated advertising system.” Google’s AI is running rampant, and it turns out that the robots made by the firm to collect and interpret data might be a little more sexist than those who designed it wanted it to be.
Google size might be a problem
Google has run into problems related to its massive size before, but those issues were mostly linked to political problems. Now, however, the ad system, which makes many decisions about what and how to advertise without any oversight, may be growing beyond control as it develops its own bank of data to work off of.
Google’s ad AI may have decided that men are a better fit for a high-level job. Wired said that ” there’s the possibility that user behavior taught Google to serve ads in this manner.”at
The rampant pace of growth in data collection at Google makes it impossible for the firm to have oversight over everything that its search and ad decision-making programs does, and that could be bad for business going forward.
Just because the mistake was made by a machine doesn’t mean that it can’t effect business at Google. The firm relies on a focused ad program to bring in most of its revenues. If Google’s ads are targeting the wrong people, the company’s financial future could be harmed.
An ad platform with better AI, like that at Facebook, could soon surpass Google with the quality of its ads, especially if Google’s ad platform has grown beyond its control like the researchers at Carnegie Mellon contend.