I use a lot of Google products. I’m typing this on a laptop on which I’ve installed ChromeOS Flex, I use Google Workspace at work, I’ve got a Google Assistant device in every room of our house, and now even my car has an infotainment system with it built in.
But I do take some precautions. I don’t use Google Search. I turn off my web history, watching history on YouTube, opt out of personalisation, and encrypt my Chrome browser sync with a password.
This article doesn’t surprise me, because Google’s core business is advertising. It’s still creepy though.
There have long been suspicions that the search giant manipulates ad prices, and now it’s clear that Google treats consumers with the same disdain. The “10 blue links,” or organic results, which Google has always claimed to be sacrosanct, are just another vector for Google greediness, camouflaged in the company’s kindergarten colors.
Google likely alters queries billions of times a day in trillions of different variations. Here’s how it works. Say you search for “children’s clothing.” Google converts it, without your knowledge, to a search for “NIKOLAI-brand kidswear,” making a behind-the-scenes substitution of your actual query with a different query that just happens to generate more money for the company, and will generate results you weren’t searching for at all. It’s not possible for you to opt out of the substitution. If you don’t get the results you want, and you try to refine your query, you are wasting your time. This is a twisted shopping mall you can’t escape.
Why would Google want to do this? First, the generated results to the latter query are more likely to be shopping-oriented, triggering your subsequent behavior much like the candy display at a grocery store’s checkout. Second, that latter query will automatically generate the keyword ads placed on the search engine results page by stores like TJ Maxx, which pay Google every time you click on them. In short, it’s a guaranteed way to line Google’s pockets.