Google Uber Alles

HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

GoogleHow deeply has Google penetrated how we use information?

More deeply than we think, it turns out. And its errors have effects we could never have imagined.

Just last week, Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica because Google Maps mistakenly showed certain disputed territories in Costa Rica as being part of Nicaragua. According to media reports,

A "bug in Google" inspired troops to enter an area near the long-contested border, remove Costa Rica's flag and raise its own. The "bug" quickly blew up into an international event, with the Organization of American States and the UN Security Council getting involved, and the search giant "fixing" the map.

A popular blog, Search Engine Land also covered the story. Ironically, it relied on an article from the Spanish press for information, using Google Translate to read the story.

At first, I thought the story was a hoax. Could an army possibly invade another country over information provided by an online map program? So I did what I always do when I suspect a hoax – I Googled it (yes, Google's a transitive verb that Merriam-Webster capitalizes) and discovered the story was real.

Google Maps. Google Translate. Google search.

Then I read that Google’s mobile phone system, Android, has surpassed Apple’s vaunted iPhone in revenue this year.

Resistance is futile. It's a Google world. We're at its mercy.

Previously in Alex's series: The NY Times's Digital Transformation