Society’s Dependence On Google Grows

Google Chrome Logo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Google Chrome Logo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lauren Cincotta, News Editor

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Here at WSHS and around the world, reliance on technology has reached new heights. This reliance not only extends to physical hardware, but the companies behind it. One such company, Google, has grown both in popularity and in the size of its influence on the daily lives of many. When Google first started, it was a search engine. Search engines allow people to enter a question or website and see results related to that subject. There are many different search engines for general questions such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even some lesser known academic engines such as WolframAlpha or DuckDuckGo (which does not store information on the consumer.)

 Why haven’t many people heard of these other search engines? Our culture has evolved to a point that when a question is asked, the easy answer is “Google it”. Google alone has risen to such a prominent place in our society that its name has become synonymous with answers. Gone are the days where students went to libraries for research or when people looking for answers consulted books. Online search engines aren’t going anywhere. As a search engine, the cultural popularity of Google was unprecedented. There are now millions of Google searches every minute. What society might choose to overlook is the vast amount of information that Google knows about everyone, just from their searches. Google stores information from every search. When someone decides to “Google” something the information does not disappear. The company claims that information is not sold to other groups, it is used by Google itself for targeted advertisements. Considering how many searches are made in a day, even on an individual level, it is interesting how much Google knows about all of us. What do people search for? This varies based on the individual. Health conditions, online shopping, even websites that answer random questions. How much of your inner questions and fears have you unknowingly surrendered to this corporate giant?

As everyone knows, Google is much more than a search engine.  Now instead of only being a source for answers, Google has developed Chrome. Chrome is a browser, a program that people use to access the web. As of 2008, Google has had the means to control how people accessed and navigated the web (should they choose to use the Chrome browser), in addition to how they received answers to questions or searched for websites. Other examples of browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari on Apple products.  Later, Chrome expanded to become the basis of the Google Operating System. An operating system is part of what makes computers work beyond the bare hardware. Operating systems control the ability to run files, and provide a user-friendly interface that allows for a more simple web navigation experience. Since 2009, Google has controlled the system that runs computers, the access of the web, and the answers to questions or website searches.

Today, Google has expanded far more than any other search engine. With its own operating system for computers, various Google apps and Gmail, there are many new ways to use Google products. Google has even found ways to change education. Many schools including WSHS have adopted online classrooms for teachers and students to post and complete assignments using Google Classroom. Every student has a Gmail account that can be used to connect with other accounts within the school system. Entire districts have built their technology infrastructure around Google apps. Google apps like docs and file sharing system Google Drive are also critical parts of the learning process in schools. Several companies have also adopted the Google Drive system because it allows for easy file sharing between users with Gmail accounts. In many classes students enter test answers to multiple choice questions in Google Forms. A Google Form is also a convenient way to create surveys that can be shared with many people and see results in a streamlined way.

That is what has made Google a strong asset to modern education systems and businesses, creating a faster, easier way for work to be done.  As Google has developed convenient ways to do everyday tasks, the control it has over us is expanding. As with any technology company, when consumers use a product more, that translates into more money. Google simply gave consumers much more to use. In recent years there have been several new additions to the google family in the form of new apps such as Maps and Photos. Other developments include a virtual assistant and the Android operating system for smartphones. These developments have taken Google farther than any other search engine. How much expansion is too much? From the very start of the company, Google has kept a number of innovations and developments going at one time. Google has not given any indication of surrendering it’s pursuit for more ways to make itself useful to consumers. With entire companies and school systems relying on Google to effectively run their organizations it is not so much a question of Google’s capabilities to reach far beyond internet searches, but how far society will let them reach into daily life.

Over a century ago, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. This law was intended to break up corporate monopolies. This was designed to break up large companies that controlled multiple areas such as oil, electricity and phone. From an idealist’s perspective, this law protected the American people from the growing reach of large corporations into their lives. For nearly a century, “trust-busters” have proudly fought to protect the American people from companies that have too much control. In this era of the internet, when it seems that legislation lags behind the evolving landscape, what has happened to this spirit of consumer independence? Google has established itself in the daily life of the average person much more than any oil or phone company.

Conducting our daily business as a society, even as a school would be very challenging without Google to make our days more streamlined, as it has become notorious for. Cutting back Google’s influence in our lives is more difficult than initially thought. However, even considering that schools and companies rely on Google to run efficiently, there are personal choices that everyone can make to reduce Google’s control. Ironically, the easiest way to cut Google out of daily life is using alternative search engines such as Bing or DuckDuckGo. This practice reduces the amount of information that Google has on the individual. This may also give the consumer different results than what Google would, because Google ranks web pages based on their relation to the question asked. This ranking system is different from those at other search engines. Even if this seems like a small step, it is an important step. By reducing Google searches, consumers can take back some control from a company that has continued to make itself indispensable without anyone fighting it’s rapid development.