An internet search engine giant is making a significant investment in the Grand Canyon State.
Last week, Google unleashed a significant announcement, revealing that it would soon be constructing a $600 million data center in Mesa, marking the first time the company has put down physical roots in Arizona.
Governor Katie Hobbs, who attended the event with Google executives and other local leaders, issued the following statement to commemorate the news for her state: “Google’s investment in Arizona will be critical for the Mesa community and our state’s economy. Arizona continues to attract global technology leaders due to our skilled workforce, dynamic economy and focus on innovation. We are proud to welcome Google to Arizona and look forward to the many opportunities this partnership will bring.”
Mesa Mayor John Giles added, “The City of Mesa is thrilled to welcome Google to our community. Google’s decision to designate Mesa as the home for its first facility in Arizona underscores its profound confidence in our city and residents.”
According to a release published by the City of Mesa, “the new Mesa data center will help power popular digital services – like Google Search, Gmail, Maps, Google Cloud, and others – for people and organizations worldwide.”
The Vice President for Google’s Data Centers, Joe Kava, said, “We are proud to put down roots in Arizona with both the data center in Mesa and the Phoenix cloud region. Not only do data centers help keep digital services up and running for people and businesses, they are economic anchors in the communities where we operate. We are appreciative of the continued partnership with the local leadership across the state.”
In addition to the multi-million-dollar infrastructure project, Google revealed that the Phoenix area would soon be welcoming “a new Google Cloud region to complement its existing network of regions around the world, bringing Google Cloud technologies closer to local customers – ranging from small, medium and large businesses to public sector entities and other organizations – to help them deliver digital services to their own users more reliably and at higher speeds.”
The Arizona Governor’s Office stated that “Google’s Mesa facility is the first data center in the United States to use zero-water cooling and has announced plans to be completely carbon-free and pursue net-zero emissions across its operations by 2030.”
Per an internal economic report, Google “helped provide $11.43 billion of economic activity for tens of thousands of Arizona businesses, publishers, nonprofits, creators and developers in 2022,” and “more than 367,000 Arizona businesses used Google’s free tools to receive phone calls, bookings, reviews, requests for directions and other direct connections to their customers.” Google also “provided $15.55 million of free search advertising to Arizona nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program in 2022.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Who does not agree with a statement like this? It certainly tugs at the heartstrings, but what we often don’t hear is how many lives are lost or compromised due to what was deemed as a solution.
Last year the Teen Mental Health House Ad Hoc Committee was formed at the Arizona Legislature with this stated purpose:
The Ad Hoc Committee on Teen Mental Health, which will consist of members of the House of Representatives and of the community, is intended to research and review information regarding how substance abuse, depression and mental illness, bullying and social media, and other factors may affect mental health in youth and potential teen suicide. The committee shall work to identify potential solutions and make recommendations to public and private agencies with the goal of addressing teen mental health issues and improving access to mental health care.
Most of the time when governments choose committee members, it is so a pre-determined goal will be achieved. What the public sector continually lacks is the diligence to take a deep dive into issues and critically think about ramifications. Officeholders prefer politically expedient solutions, while education contractors benefit financially via lobbyists who peddle their wares.
The issues surrounding Arizona HB2635 are real and scary, whether one supports the bill or not. Representative Travis Grantham (R-LD14) was the Vice Chair of the Teen Mental Health Committee, and the personal stories he heard clearly moved him. He sponsored HB2635 which would allow local governing boards to provide a mental health app for teens to have on their phones simply for access to a suicide prevention line.
But high schools and colleges are already required by Arizona law to print a suicide hotline number on student IDs. While an app for quick access to a suicide hotline sounds lifesaving, there are long-term risks involved for a product like this that lacks proven results. According to a study conducted by Internet Safety Labs and published December 13, 2022, even apps customized for school districts are less safe compared to generic apps—as 96% of the apps recommended by school districts share personal information with third parties.
We know our phones are tracking and listening to us. Apps can be developed to pick up on keywords which may relate to a stressful situation or even just an argument a teen has with his or her parents. Apps are also programmed to pick up certain emojis. Schools could then be notified and intervene based on a narrative which has nothing to do with suicide. Meanwhile, the information the app gathered never goes away. Mental health information gleaned from an app may be a problem later in life when the child is applying for jobs or certain academic programs.
In addition, according to study by Internet Safety Labs, 61% of custom apps send information to Google, while 81% access location information. These apps synchronize with the student’s Chromebooks and other devices. This is especially unnerving in Arizona, which is a leading state for sex trafficking. On top of that, several Arizona school districts recognize that social media is contributing to youth mental health problems, and one is even suing Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Why would our legislature support an app which leads students to these platforms?
Representative Grantham has been looking at a similar mental health app used in Utah. The idea started as a pilot program, collected data, and through the data it was deemed necessary to expand the program. Now that the data is documented, the proponents call it “evidence-based.”
Due to pushback, Representative Grantham proposed adding an amendment to provide “guardrails” for the mental health app. Will guardrails tell us who is on the other end of a suicide hotline? Like former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman’s QChat, parents are circumvented while minors are talking with strangers their parents know nothing about.
One of the mental health apps used in Utah is Bark, which has an LGBTQIA+ page. Bark also links students to the Trevor Project, which steers children to gender ideology. At the same time, the child’s data is recorded forever. That is concerning, especially since Bark advertises the CDC as one of its partners. Exactly what is the government doing with the information collected while the minor is tracked?
Children are suffering from a lack of personal interactions with parents, teachers, and friends. Sending them to an app—especially sinister ones like this—only exacerbates the problem. The Arizona Legislature should vote no on HB2635. Gathering data on children is an outright assault on them.
Peggy McClain is a concerned citizen who advocates for accountability in Arizona’s schools. You can follower her on Twitter here.
Editor’s Note: Since our story published, search results for Kari Lake now show her campaign website on Google’s first page.
Google appears to be skewing search results of Arizona’s gubernatorial candidates to favor the Democratic candidates over the Republicans. AZ Free News monitored search results over the past week and discovered indications of a consistent bias for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs and secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes, over their respective Republican opponents Kari Lake and Mark Finchem.
It’s likely the latest in Google’s history of attempting to sway election outcomes. The Big Tech giant historically referred to their technique of manipulating search results as “ephemeral experiences.” Google has admitted to manufacturing this information in order to change people’s attitudes and behavior concerning politics.
A search of “Katie Hobbs” brings up Hobbs’ website as the first result, followed by top news portraying Hobbs favorably. A sample of articles featured over the weekend: an MSNBC interview that she’s the sane candidate, a Fox News report that she has “Republicans” campaigning for her, a KTAR report that former President Barack Obama will stump for her and Senator Mark Kelly, and an Insider report on Fox News mistakenly screening mock election results of a Hobbs victory.
After those articles, it’s Hobbs’ secretary of state website, her Twitter feed, her Wikipedia page, an endorsement by pro-abortion group Emily’s List, her Ballotpedia, her Facebook, and various coverage of the burglary of her campaign office.
Then there’s the results of a search on “Kari Lake.” Her campaign website doesn’t appear on any of the first 11 search result pages, and doesn’t appear even when omitted results are included. Lake’s website appears sporadically via ads, alongside which there are usually ads asking voters to donate to Hobbs.
Search results for Lake yield a Wikipedia page first, followed by top news portraying Lake unfavorably. Here were some of the articles featured over the weekend: multiple outlets’ coverage of “Saturday Night Live” mocking Lake and other Trump-backed candidates, multiple outlets’ reports on former congresswoman Liz Cheney’s millions and latest ad to defeat Lake, an Arizona Republic report detailing Attorney General Mark Brnovich accusing Lake of running a “giant grift,” and a Politico report on Lake using “MAGA star power.” After those articles, it’s Lake’s Ballotpedia, her Twitter feed, several YouTube videos, a Washington Post article, her Instagram feed, and her Facebook page.
Something similar occurs when voters look up the secretary of state candidates. A search for “Mark Finchem” yields his state legislator profile first, not his website, followed by his Wikipedia page and a collection of “top stories” characterizing Finchem as an “election denier” and target of Cheney’s PAC. Whereas a search for “Adrian Fontes” yields his campaign website first, followed by his Ballotpedia profile, endorsements, social media profiles, and two individual links to news coverage detailing Fontes’ campaign platform. Absent from the first page of results are “top stories” portraying Fontes in any negative light.
The same can’t be said for other races. Google search results for attorney general candidates Abraham Hamadeh (R) and Kris Mayes (D) yield their websites first, followed by Ballotpedia and social media accounts — no top news stories aggregated near the top.
The same is true for the search results for Maricopa County attorney, superintendent, treasurer, and state legislative candidates. U.S. House and Senate races don’t reflect that bias, either.
Google has a history of political favoritism of the left. Evidence of their role in elections became evident following the 2016 presidential election.
In last Thursday’s episode of Fox News “Tucker Carlson Today,” acclaimed psychologist and researcher Robert Epstein said that Google modifies its search results to influence voters. That’s in addition to the fact that Google is one of the top surveillance entities in the world.
Epstein, a Biden voter, said that his research confirmed whistleblower testimonies of Google’s election influence. Throughout the 2016 election, Epstein monitored Google activity using 1,735 voters across four swing states. In all, Epstein gleaned around 1.5 million ephemeral experiences across not only Google, but Bing, YouTube, and Facebook.
Epstein asserted that the biggest issue in elections wasn’t fraud but the Big Tech companies’ unchecked influence.
“I was nauseated that our data were [sic] telling us that this election was in the hands of private companies, Google in particular. Literally, that there is no more democracy, there is no more free and fair election, it’s just an illusion,” stated Epstein.
Epstein said that Google and YouTube influenced search results to favor far-left ideology. He estimated that Google’s influence in search results affected around 6 million votes in 2020.
“What we found was extreme liberal bias on Google — which is the only real search engine that counts — and hardly any bias on Bing and Yahoo,” said Epstein.
Arizona doesn’t appear to be the top priority for the Big Tech giant this year, despite evidence of their handiwork in the gubernatorial and secretary of state races. According to Epstein’s research, Google’s current primary focus is Wisconsin.
Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) sued Google over claims of censorship. The RNC provided research indicating that the Big Tech giant sends its campaign emails to spam folders automatically to suppress its fundraising and get-out-the-vote messages.
On Tuesday, the state of Arizona reached an $85 million settlement with Google over profiting on a deceptive acquisition of users’ location data. It is the most per capita that Google has paid out for this type of lawsuit.
In a press release announcing the settlement, Attorney General Mark Brnovich shared that the legal battle constituted one of the biggest consumer fraud lawsuits in state history.
“When I was elected attorney general, I promised Arizonans I would fight for them and hold everyone, including corporations like Google, accountable,” said Brnovich. “I am proud of this historic settlement that proves no entity, not even big tech companies, is above the law.”
Brnovich launched a two-year investigation into the Big Tech giant in 2018 after the Associated Press reported that users were misled and deceived about the collection and use of their Android smartphone’s location data — even if the user disabled their location history. The Big Tech giant would collect location data through other phone settings without consent in order to sell ads.
Brnovich stressed these facts when he sued Google in 2020. In all, the investigation and litigation took about four years.
“While Google users are led to believe they can opt-out of location tracking, the company exploits other avenues to invade personal privacy,” said Brnovich. “It’s nearly impossible to stop Google from tracking your movements without your knowledge or consent. This is contrary to the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and even the most innovative companies must operate within the law.”
Over 80 percent of Google’s revenues were generated through advertising.
While Google misled users on how it would collect and profit off of their personal location data, they would purport to err on the side of transparency through initiatives like their “Transparency Report.” The company continues to raise concern about how governments and other corporations engage with individuals’ data.
They also used to publish an annual report, “Android Security Year in Review,” which discussed their efforts to protect Android users’ data. The last report of that kind was issued in March 2019, about 7 months after the AP report.
Google petitioned the courts to seal Brnovich’s complaint and exhibits in the case, prompting widespread backlash from transparency advocates. Some aspects of the documents are unredacted, though the remainder are redacted.
Most of the $85 million will go to the state’s general fund, with $5 million set aside for attorney general education programs.
Joseph Kanefield, Brunn Roysden, and Michael Catlett handled the case for the attorney general’s office. Outside counsel included Kevin Neal and Ken Ralston of Gallagher & Kennedy, and Guy Ruttenberg and Mike Eshaghian of Ruttenberg IP Law.
This week, Google made its driverless vehicles available to the East Valley public through its ride-hailing company, Waymo One. The artificial intelligence taxi service is available in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tempe.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was one of the driverless car’s first passengers.
In a promotional video, Gallego said she appreciated that the vehicles are electric, and expressed hope that it would make the city more inclusive.
“There are many people in this community who can’t drive or choose not to,” said Gallego.
This isn’t the East Valley’s first experience with these driverless cars. Google has tested them over the past five years in the area.
One of those test runs went viral last year after the car stalled in a Chandler intersection, blocked three lanes of traffic, and attempted to escape company handlers. The car became confused and stopped because it needed to take a right turn and construction closed off the turn lane with cones. At one point, the car began to back up into oncoming traffic.
The passenger noted that he’d been stranded multiple times before in Waymo’s driverless cars.
Downtown Phoenix will also have driverless cars, but only for Waymo employees and “Trusted Testers,” which are select individuals participating in approved test drives. Unlike the East Valley, the downtown driverless cars will have a Waymo “autonomous specialist” in the front seat.
Waymo is also developing driverless freight transportation through its other initiative, Waymo Via.
Google isn’t the only company testing driverless cars and trucks in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has approved multiple driverless trucking test runs for the company TuSimple, which has ties to the Chinese government.
According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there are about 3.6 million professional truck drivers in the country. Government estimates report about 8 million people involved in the entire trucking industry. Globally, the industry is worth $4 trillion, and truckers make up about 40 percent of operating costs.