When Google Completes You Wrong

Apr 4, 2013 • 8:06 am | comments (5) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

matt cutts Google suggestImagine you are sitting in an interview and your potential boss decides to Google your name right in front of you.

Now imagine if Google then auto-completes your name to things that might not look great. Maybe a medical condition? Maybe something you may have done when in college that you are not proud of? Maybe a conviction you had for something you did in your teenage years? Maybe it has nothing to do with you but someone else who has your name?

A Google Web Search Help thread has one person upset that when you search for his/her name up comes that he is/was bipolar.

He wrote:

I have not been able to find any work, most likely because of the auto-suggest which automatically sends anyone who types my full name to my medical information that is illegally on the Internet. I have suffered quite a bit of psychological stress from this issue, which has led me to spend quite a bit of money and time on doctors, medication, and counseling, when I could afford it.

I acknowledge that the illegal information that is on the Internet is not Google's fault. However, in my opinion, Google is partially responsible for the Auto-suggest feature, especially since there is no way to get Google to change or remove the results.

I have heard that Google has steadfastly held that they cannot change Google Search Auto-suggestions. I have faithfully waited for a year for this auto-suggest term to go away. During this time I have only used my full name only to search for my medical information, and have stayed away from "[MY Full Name] is bipolar" like the plague. Yet, it is still there.

Very sad but this is not uncommon.

Just start typing in Matt Cutts into Google and you will see things like:

  • matt cutts is a liar
  • matt cutts is a seo spam
  • matt cutts is evil

That can't be great for him to see from a search engine he helped design. But knowing Matt, he wouldn't change it or even think about changing it.

Of course, Matt doesn't need a job. It won't make him any richer or poorer to remove the results. He won't likely lose sleep over it, at least I hope not. He won't have to pay doctors to help him mentally handle the issues.

Do you think something must be done about Google Instant? If you think so, see our coverage and the video of the Google Organic Search Policy Panel.

We've covered this topic often in the past 10+ years...

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: April 3, 2013



04/04/2013 01:44 pm

Personal medical information is Objective. There are certain regulations about how, when and why it can be accessed. The example with Matt Cutts, as any people-to-people or person-to-group relations, is Subjective. Google just reflects it. You can censor it or act the way to change it in your favor. Apples and oranges.

Mike Kalil

04/04/2013 03:37 pm

It doesn't take much to influence Auto Suggest. I've done it for terms that I'm positive I was the only person searching for. (My own eBay profile, for instance). I think it's likely the user has been searching the term himself and thus caused the issue. By continuing to do so, he's only making it worse for himself. Maybe the trick is go get some people to type some alternate phrases with his name to water down the "bipolar" one. Amazon Mechanical Turk would be good for that. And of course build a robust online presence to push down those results.

Jawad Latif

04/05/2013 10:29 am

I don't think auto-suggest matters this much.


04/08/2013 08:06 am

Agreed I also think he has been searching this himself, thus causing the issue.But I also think that Google has the power to make changes to auto-suggest queries in such extreme cases, just like they can make changes to their Knowledge Graph if requested.. They should also maybe try and look at ways to keep sensitive info like in this case, personal medical info, out of it's algorithm to prevent cases like this.


04/10/2013 02:59 am

Does it suggest based on successful and unique frequent searches? It shouldn't include any identity from social networking website, unless recognized, public figure.

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