Google’s chief economist Hal R. Varian will host a free lecture at 6 p.m. today in Corwin Pavilion to discuss how the data accumulated from Google users can gauge the economy’s current state.

Varian’s speech will be the 54th Annual Carl Snyder Memorial Lecture, which brings leading figures in the field of economics to campus to honor the late statistician. Varian will discuss the relationship between Google’s corporate empire and present-day economics, explaining the company’s extensive role in social media through its ownership of various online services, including the Gmail email provider, Google+, Android mobile phones and YouTube.

The founding Dean for UC Berkeley’s School of Information, Varian joined Google in 2002 and has written two best-selling textbooks on undergraduate and advanced microeconomics used in courses on campus.

Christopher Kahdian, a fourth-year economics and accounting major, said Varian will offer an inside perspective into the connection between modern social media and economics.

“The way we view the economy is changing with the way technology is developing,” Kahdian said. “Varian’s tie between trends of the economy and Google searches will help to relate greater economic issues to students in a relatable way.”

The renowned economist will also discuss Google’s controversial decision to combine 60 separate privacy policies into one all-encompassing policy, allowing user search data to be shared across all Google services. In response to the change, three lawsuits were filed in California, New York and New Jersey claiming the new policy violated users’ rights by permitting access to highly personal information across various Google-owned areas of the web.

However, third-year linguistics major Mineh Ebrahimian said the change made the corporation’s services more user-friendly.

“I think it makes sense for Google to combine all of their privacy policies into one streamlined guideline,” Ebrahimian said. “Google should be paying attention to what users have searched in the past in order to create a better user experience overall. It would just make searching for something online easier.”

Google’s business model relies on funds from paid advertisements on its search pages. The new policy will allow access to user search history to improve companies’ ads targeting individuals’ interests, according to fourth-year global studies major Taylor Lorenz.

“Google is competing with companies like Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and, most importantly, Facebook for prime advertisers,” Lorenz said. “If Google must adjust their privacy policy to make more money, then so be it. It all comes down to business and it’ll be interesting to see how Varian will address these changes in his lecture.”

Contact the Department of Economics at (805)893-3596 or through the department website at to reserve a place for tonight’s lecture.