15 Jun Baidu: The Search Engine Google Wishes It Could Be
A hot topic in the news right now is how involved the government should be with regulating the internet. Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist myself, but I learned a lot about what a search engine is capable of with minimal government regulation and let’s just say, I may be fashioning some tinfoil hats when I get home.
At SMX Advanced, I attended a session on China’s primary search engine, Baidu. Baidu is considered to be “China’s Google” and is quite large, with a reported 45,000 employees and up to 96.3% market share in China. The presentation was given by Baidu’s very own Vice President, Liang Zeng. As it turns out, China’s policies on the collection, storing and reporting out of user data are much looser compared to the United States.
This allows search engines in China to increase in value and overall dependability. It also enables them to create products Google can only dream about at this time. Zeng gave a few examples. While reviewing, consider the ethics behind these decisions.
Celebrity Consumer Insights
Zeng explained that Baidu noticed that consumers with a preference for one product often had similar interests elsewhere. For example, people who prefer Mercedes also really like Angelina Jolie. Baidu then shares these details with the car companies to help their marketing strategies.
Google is collecting this kind of data as well, but they aren’t able to share it. Think how powerful this data could be to companies: not only would companies know which celebrity endorsement to use, but they could see more about who their consumers really are. From age, restaurants, hobbies, and more, there is a wealth of data readily available to help their marketing strategies succeed.
While Baidu is using this data to help other companies, they are also using it to improve their product as well. The data allows them to provide more personalized search results for the searcher. For example, if someone who likes Angelina Jolie is searching for cars, Mercedes could rank higher. This changes SEO pretty drastically, don’t you think?
Zeng explained that holiday and seasonal migration is a big deal in China. Millions of people move throughout the country every year. Baidu provides insight into the travel habits of these people to the government to help them prepare.
This data has many useful possibilities. It can show which routes are traveled most and will need more maintenance. It can help businesses know what kind of users are migrating nearby to help them market to that audience. It could also show them where their target users are most likely found so they can optimize those locations. One example Zeng mentioned was that the government uses this data to monitor and control the spread of infectious diseases in real time.
Alright, this is where the tinfoil hat comes in handy. Baidu is able to search through billions of pictures in real time to identify the whereabouts of a government suspect. Facial recognition technology isn’t a new idea, but being able to locate one person out of ten billion pictures in real time sounds like it came straight out of a spy novel. There are a lot of ways you could use this commercially, but I’m sure it is a highly controlled product.
Have you ever gone to a new restaurant and wondered if the food you are eating is safe? Enter Baidu’s famous chopsticks. These chopsticks analyze the ingredients, nutritional value and safety of your food and report it back to you (and Baidu) in real time so you can make better informed decisions about what goes in your mouth.
The benefit to users is obvious, but this data benefits Baidu as well. They could utilize this data to give ideas on where to eat based on your preferences. It could also track restaurants or stores that have high instances of food poisoning.
With all the discussions about government regulation and the cool products Baidu creates, it can be easy to wish for less regulation on Google. However, one must remain objective and consider the consequences. The main consequence here is the lack of privacy–the importance of which cannot be understated.
What do you think? How important is privacy online? Are there other consequences that we should consider? Please comment below with your thoughts and ideas. I’m looking forward to a fascinating discussion!