A Harvard professor's study has found that the ads provided alongside Google search results seem to have a racial bias.
If you search for a typically "black" name, you're 25% more likely to see ads that relate to crime. Searching for names like DeShawn, Leroy, and Keisha will often produce ads for criminal background checks and arrest records, whereas searching for names like Brad and Katie rarely throws up results suggestive of a criminal past. The paper found some exceptions, notably Dustin, a typically white name that generated arrest record ads on virtually every search.
Google denies racial profiling, and explains that companies who advertise with Google chose which keywords will expose their ads. That suggests criminal background check firms are giving Google a disproportionate number of "black names" as ad keywords - which is a form of racial profiling, though it's not being carried out intentionally by Google.
Prof. Latanya Sweeney, who authored the as-yet-unpublished research, didn't impute deliberate racial bias to Google. Instead, she suggested Google's search results reflect "racial bias in society." She added that their "smart search" algorithms, which present users with the most frequently-clicked results, are probably compounding the problem.
She has called on Google to develop technology to counteract racial discimination in its ad results.