Google autocomplete and family relationships


As anyone who uses the Google search engine knows, when you start to type out a question, you’ll immediately get a dropdown of questions that begin with the same wording. That’s called autocomplete.

So many questions are asked on Google, that the database immediately draws up the most frequently asked ones using that phrasing, assuming that chances are since everyone else is asking them, you’re asking the same thing.

It’s a good indication of the state of mind of the world. When so many people are asking the same question, that’s a sociological trend.

A few days before I saw this cartoon on XKDC (click on it for a larger image), I was experimenting with Google’s autocomplete function and wondering what would come up when the focus involved families.

It is not encouraging.

Just go to Google, type in the following terms and see what pops up:

Why does my father
Why does my mother
Why does my husband
Why does my wife
Why does my sister
Why does my brother
Why does my son
Why does my daughter
Why does my aunt
Why does my uncle

The autocomplete on these terms makes you feel like your trapped in an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Maury” or any of those live daytime shows that dwell on the depravity of ancestry.

The only family situation in autocomplete that didn’t repulse me was:

Why does my grandfather

Have a go at it. You’ll be surprised, and depressed, by the results.

There are a lot of unhappy families out there.


Child abuse in the eye of the beholder

A Spanish organization that protects children from child abuse is running outdoor ads that appear one way to adults and another way to children. The belief is that if an abusing adult saw the ad, he or she would make sure their child didn’t see it.

What the adult sees is an ad that shows a boy with the message:

Sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.

What the child sees is an ad that shows the same boy, bloody and bruised, with the message:

If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., statistics indicate that the number of child abuse instances decreased during the recent Great Recession. But there’s another indicator that suggests statistics are lying (From the New York Times):

The real story about child maltreatment during the recession is a grim one. I spent months studying this topic, using a number of different data sources, including Google search queries. I found that the Great Recession caused a significant increase in child abuse and neglect. But far fewer of these cases were reported to authorities, with much of the drop due to slashed budgets for teachers, nurses, doctors and child protective service workers.

So state and federal budget cuts are eliminating services directed at protecting children from abuse. Since the services are being cut, reported instances of child abuse have decreased. But statistics show Google searches on child abuse topics have increased. For example:


Google that and see how many links come up. (I really didn’t want to say “see how many hits you get.”)

201 million.

Here’s another statistic that shows child abuse has increased in the U.S.:

The first clue that the official statistics were misleading comes from looking at the most extreme forms of abuse and neglect, which are least susceptible to reporting pressures: child-fatality rates. During the downturn, there was a comparative increase in these rates in states that were hardest hit by the recession. From 2006 to 2009, Nevada’s fatality rate from abuse or neglect rose 50 percent.

With reduced services, reports of child abuse drop. But you can’t gloss over reporting when a child dies, and in Nevada alone, that has soared 50 percent. It’s absurd to believe that child abuse has dropped when the number of dead children is sharply increasing.

The Tea Party patriots and their GOP cohorts in national and state legislatures want to keep cutting funding for social services.

This is the result of their “fiscal responsibility.”

The next thing in technology: OK, Glass

There’s been a lot of coverage about Google Glass the past week. It’s wearable technology that let’s you do all the things you do on your smartphone through a pair of glasses (get research, directions, take photos, take video among other things).

I thought when the iPhone came up with Siri, that was a big deal. Now, Siri is, “So 2011.”

But Google Glass has a hefty price tag. Up to $1,500. Probably will be available for Christmas. For a few people.

You see, Google’s pulling one of these limited release marketing scams, having “a few” people write a brief essay on what they would do with the technology, and if it likes the answer, that person gets a pair. For $1,500.

The old “only special people can have this” routine. Which means it isn’t going to, let’s say, the 90% of America that can’t afford an expensive tech toy.

Here’s the deal (Yes, this now makes me an unpaid advertising shill for Google):

How to apply

We’re looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass. We’d love to make everyone an Explorer, but we’re starting off a bit smaller. We’re still in the early stages, and while we can’t promise everything will be perfect, we can promise it will be exciting.

Using Google+ or Twitter, tell us what you would do if you had Glass, starting with the hashtag #ifihadglass.

  • Your application must be 50 words or less

  • You must include #ifihadglass in your application

  • You can include up to 5 photos with your application

  • You can include a short video (15 secs max)

  • Be sure to follow us on Google+ (+ProjectGlass) or Twitter (@projectglass) so that we can contact you directly

  • You must be at least 18 years old and live in the U.S. to apply

    What happens next?

    The deadline for applications is February 27th. If you are chosen, we will reach out to you with an invitation to become a Glass Explorer (please remember to follow us so that we can contact you directly). Explorers will each need to pre-order a Glass Explorer Edition for $1500 plus tax and attend a special pick-up experience, in person, in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

  • For more details, please see our full Terms and FAQ

So, you have to write an essay. Send Google $1,500. Then, if you’re one of the chosen few, you get to fly out to NYC, SF or LA, on your own dime, to pick up your glasses? For something that in a couple of years is going to come down in price about 60% and will be available at the Mall at St. Matthews in the Louisville suburbs?

I can wait.

I can read your mind. (Everybody can)

A mind reader was working his magic in Brussels, and people were asked if they wanted to be on his television show. He then proceeded to tell them some of the most intimate secrets of their lives.

Yeah, that’s right. It was a scam with a higher purpose. You don’t need to go to a mind reader, because everything about you is on a computer somewhere. You give up a lot of information if you have a Facebook profile. But other things are accessible. Anyone with a Nexis connection can track down where you live (and where you’ve lived), your birth date and other goodies, like your social security number and your criminal record. Even a mediocre hacker can get your bank information.

When you carry your phone, you’re actually carrying a homing device that can tell people where you are at any given moment. There are apps that can show where and how you’re traveling. You have no secrets.

This post isn’t intended to make you feel paranoid. It’s just an acknowledgement of life in the digital world.

Now, this video was taken in Brussels. Since I used to live there, I thought I knew where it was in the city, but I had to make sure.

It’s across from the church in Place Ste. Catherine, not far from the Bourse. Why do I know that?

Because I went to Google Maps and pulled up this picture:

Now, go back to the video and pay attention at the 12 second mark.

Look familiar? That little bit of sleuthing took me about two minutes.

Here’s the thing though.

The European Union is far more strict about privacy matters than we are in the United States. When Google Maps was going through Europe taking street level photos, an official in Germany asked if they were collecting information on people. (Germans are pretty picky about having the state collect information on them. Think about their history.) Google said no. The official asked to check out the technology they were using.

It turns out Google was collecting information from people’s wireless connections throughout Europe. The Europeans went nuts.

We haven’t heard anything about it here, though. But if they collected data in Europe, you know they collected data here.

The point of this Belgian ad campaign can’t be understated. Everything about you is on the Internet. People are looking at your data, and you don’t know who they are or what they’re going to do with it. In fact, when you go to a web site, other Web sites are tracking you. Mozilla, which runs the Firefox browser, has an app called Collusion that will show you how other sites tracking your Internet behavior.

And there’s no turning back.

So here are a few tips on protecting your money:

  • Make sure your PC is sufficiently secured (for instance by installing an up-to-date version of a virus scanner)
  • If someone calls you up on behalf of your bank and asks you to provide personal data and/or to sign electronically, refrain from taking any action at all, for your bank will never ask you to provide this kind of information.
  • Put your electronic signature only for orders you expect or have initiated yourself.
  • In case of doubt, immediately abort the transaction and take contact with your bank, especially when the procedure for signing differs from the usual procedure. All banks have a help desk where you can find the answer to your questions about internet banking. Access to this help desk can be found on the bank’s website.
  • Check your statements of account at regular intervals.

And that’s my public-service announcement for the day.

A rude observation on Wall Street

The Rude Pundit has a few choice words on American job creation and Wall Street:

Here’s everything you need to know about American capitalism in the 21st century contained in a single sentence: “Google’s push to further expand a work force that grew by 23 percent last year may not be as well received on Wall Street, where the Internet search leader’s spending has annoyed some investors who would prefer a more frugal approach in hopes of fatter returns.” This comes in an article that discusses how Google is going to hire 6200 new employees this year, which is, you know, generally considered awesome news.

Thar’s the family friendly portion of the post. For the full rudeness, go here.