On March 15, people looking up Ghana's exchange rate got a bit of a shock — according to Google's exchange rate service, the Ghanaian Cedi was trading at one-fourth its normal value, signaling some sort of economic cataclysm.
In actual fact, a U.S. dollar is currently trading for about 5.10 Cedi. But an error that Google has since referred to as a "minor glitch" shifted the exchange rate to a catastrophic 22.72 Cedi per dollar, CNN reports — a troubling sign of the power of information brokers in the age of the web.
Many people throughout Ghana were caught off guard by the exchange rate glitch, as it was unclear in the moment whether the glitch was an error or if the economy had truly tanked overnight, according to a press release published by Ghana's Ministry of Finance.
"We always aim to provide people with the most relevant, useful information to help them to make the right decisions," Titi Akinsanmi, Google's Head of Public Policy & Government Relations for West and Francophone Africa, wrote to Ghana's Minister of Finance. "But sometimes there are temporary issues that can cause people to have undesired experiences, like the one this past Friday. This was regrettable."
Google never confirmed the root cause of the glitch, which also affected two other nations this year.
On Feb. 22, a similar glitch caused Google to trade the Nigerian Naira at twice its value. The same thing happened to Pakistan's Rupee in January.
The tension over this unexplained glitch is palpable in Ghana's press release, which points out that Akinsanmi issued a non-apology over the economy-tanking glitch, instead opting to call it regrettable and point out how quickly the problem was resolved.
READ MORE: Google regrets 'minor glitch' that sent Ghanaian currency plummeting [CNN]