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The Boston Globe

Business

Racial bias alleged in Google’s ad results

Names associated with blacks prompt link to arrest search

Latanya Sweeney, a professor of government at Harvard University, is a law-abiding citizen. So she was startled when a colleague showed her what happened when he ran her name through a Google search: an advertisement on the results page headlined ­“Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?”

That little display triggered a much larger research project in which Sweeney, a computer scientist and specialist in data privacy, concluded that Google searches of names more likely associated with black people often yielded advertisements for a criminal records search in that person’s name.

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