April 21, 2019 | 62° F

Google feature invades privacy


Editorial


Google has a new feature, which takes invasion of privacy to a whole new level. If you just so happen to be a celebrity whose sexuality the public has questions about, then you’re in a tough position. In one click, Google’s “gaydar” attempts to answer the public’s questions. Simply type, “is [name of the celebrity] gay?” and the search engine will do “its best” to supply the answer. If the issues weren’t obvious enough already, we have a few objections of our own.

It just isn’t Google’s place to make guesses about people’s sexual orientations — celebrities or otherwise. The company’s capabilities expanded into Google maps, YouTube and a number of other services, but Google gaydar is hardly needed or wanted. It’s gauche.

Apart from the ethics question, we believe there is much more to report on instead of guessing celebrities’ orientations. It is non-essential information that admittedly could be found only on the Internet, but Google was the last company we expected to resort to this. Instead, the search engine should make an algorithm capable of determining which politicians are or have evaded taxes and how much. Or maybe how much Google “thinks” Mark Zuckerberg is worth any given second. Either possibility would be more tasteful and relevant.

On the question of privacy, there is an obvious problem with guessing celebrities’ sexual orientations. It is unclear how Google gets its results, and that may be suitable since most questionable celebrities aren’t fair game, and thus are not included in the results. Many straight and “outer” celebrities, however, are included. In either case, “outed” or not, there is bound to be a blunder at some point, creating a rumor that spins out of control, as many are known to do on the Internet. Nothing surprising there, with the definition of “viral” now being more widely used in reference to YouTube or other online videos.

We are all curious to some degree. That’s why Us Weekly and People magazines continue to sell while The New York Times is losing revenue. People are interested and read only what they want to read, rather than the truth. Google’s so-called gaydar is an easily condemnable feature in the company Internet crown, and a hugely unneeded one.

After all, we wouldn’t want our sexual orientation — straight or gay — to be outed online, and even less so when it is one of the largest corporations on the planet doing it.


By The Daily Targum

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