As search engine giant Google launches in China, a number of questions are being raised about how the launch will affect the Chinese people and what it means for the future of a company that just seems to get bigger and wealthier.
Even as that debate rages, many questions still remain about the company's dealings right here in the United States. Is Google the gentle giant its founders claim it to be? Or is it another large corporation concerned more with profits than privacy?
Here's a look at some of the myths and truths surrounding one of the Internet's favorite success stories:
Google scans the whole Internet every time you search for something.
False. When a user conducts a search, Google searches its "index of billions of Web pages to find the most relevant information associated with the users' search." That doesn't mean every site on the World Wide Web appears during a search, only the ones that Google includes in its index.
Google collects and stores personal information about its users.
True. Google does keep a record of your personal information but only after you've voluntarily registered for one of its services or otherwise submitted your information. The company claims that it uees the information to "provide a better user experience, including customizing content for you."
Google shares personal information it collects with third-party companies.
False. Although the company admits it will share information in dire circumstances, such as when complying with law enforcement and the courts, or to prevent fraud or imminent harm or to secure its own network, it does not share information with organizations that do not comply with its privacy policies.
Google tracks the search habits of individual users, what they're looking for and when.
True. Using "cookies and other technologies," Google says it's able to learn about and improve the experience of Web-savvy searchers. A cookie is a small packet of information that bounces back and forth between the user and the site the cookie came from and reveals information on the user's Web habits.
Google is clearly the best way to search the Internet.
True and false. With so many ways to search and so many different sites to make it easy, there's no clear-cut victor in the search engine wars. However, it should be noted that Google's search results also appear on other search engines, so when users conduct searches on those sites, they may really be searching Google in a way.
If false or embarrassing information comes up when "Googling" your name, you just have to live with it.
Mostly false. The sites that come up when doing a search on Google are not owned or operated by Google. Thus, it's not able to influence the information found on those sites. But Google does say that if the information is removed by that site's Webmaster, it will be noted in Google search results.
People who work at Google are all millionaires who play volleyball all day.
Probably false. Despite the company's laid-back style and headquarters that include a beach volleyball court, exercise gym and free candy, Google stock would not be selling for about $400 a share if all who work there did nothing all day long but count their money. With that said, it is true that about 1,000 of the 3,000 employees working at company headquarters did become millionaires when Google went public.
The above information came from Google's corporate Web site.