Google Shopping search results introduce racial profiling of black-owned businesses
Google has updated shopping search results to make it easier for consumers to identify products sold by black-owned businesses. The update coincides with Black History Month and comes after Google's claims that search interest in black-owned businesses has increased 600 percent in the past year. Google's latest move will satisfy the interest by showing "Black-owned" label on product pages in the Shopping tab.
Fortunately, the racial profiling of businesses isn't being forced by Google. The company graciously allows individual businesses to self-identify as Black-owned by selecting the attribute through the Google Merchant Center. It must be noted that the businesses are marked as "Identifies as Black-owned" in the Shopping tab. This verbiage is important because Google makes no effort to actually validate the authenticity of these claims.
The update is an extension of similar feature introduced last year highlighting self-identified black businesses in regular search results. The new feature is a permanent addition to the Google Shopping tab despite it being introduced during the Black History Month. As of now, only US-based retailers with verified Merchant Center accounts are being updated with the self-identification toggle in a phased manner.
Opting into the program not only includes the "Identifies as Black-owned" label to your Google Shopping listings, but doing that also features your products in Google pages highlighting black-owned businesses. The feature can be toggled on and off at will, but Google Shopping listings will take time to reflect the change.
Self-identification of businesses could potentially open up the initiative for abuse. It isn't uncommon for non-black individuals to identify as such to reap diversity benefits. Indian-origin American actress Mindy Kaling was embarrassed after her brother wrote a book chronicling his medical school rejection as an Indian, and subsequently qualifying with the same grades by self-identifying as black; thereby highlighting rampant abuse of affirmative action.