Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Vice Reporter Becomes a Victim of Google’s Featured Snippets

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice:

This keeps happening. In the last three days, I’ve gotten more than 80 phone calls. Just today, in the span of eight minutes, I got three phone calls from people looking to talk to Facebook. I didn’t answer all of them, and some left voicemails.

Initially, I thought this was some coordinated trolling campaign. As it turns out, if you Googled “Facebook phone number” on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a “card” that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook’s phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think.

It’s not a stretch to think how this feature could be abused. Imagine if searching for “Microsoft phone number” produced one of those fake tech support lines. It would feel even more trustworthy because you’re calling them.