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SAN FRANCISCO: Onstage at an investor conference last month, Google's Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler identified a vexing challenge for the company's most prized app: its virtual assistant. Responding to user searches out loud through Google Assistant is not ideal for generating revenue, Schindler suggested.Google's conundrum is one facing several big tech companies whose users increasingly seek help from voice-enabled speakers and gadgets: How to deliver greater convenience while still generating the ad revenue that traditionally has funded free searches?The question is most acute for Google, which holds the world's biggest search advertising business.One Google Assistant feature already is close to violating disclosure rules, according to five advertising attorneys contacted by Reuters.More than 1 billion such devices have Google Assistant, 100 million Amazon.com Inc.'s Alexa and at least 1 billion Apple Inc.'s Siri, according to the companies and estimates.Results come from a marketing program, known as Google Guarantee, in which members are licensed, insured and clear of legal issues, according to Google.Membership is free, but businesses need it to buy Local Services search ads from Google.The advertising attorneys said users should be informed that Google Assistant results, even if not paid for, stem from a filtered database in which many businesses landed because they wanted to buy ads.
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