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  • Google Scrubs Search for Medical Information
Technology Articles > Software > Security & Privacy > Google Scrubs Search for Medical Information

There are some things you can’t find on Google. Things like bank account numbers, identification numbers, and signatures. Until today, you could find personal medical details.

That might come as a shock to some people, but medical record details were available through a Google search in the past. In fact, that information has already caused problems for some people in India.

A Major Issue

An Indian pathology lab made the mistake of uploading the private medical details for more than 40,000 people last December. This information included all medical records related to specific individuals - including those people that had HIV. The information was read and used by companies and other individuals. The result was devastating for those involved.

In 2015, Google changed its privacy policy to include the elimination of any nude photos. Or, images of people that might have been uploaded without that person’s consent (revenge porn). But the company did not remove medical information at that time. Why did it take Google so long to remove private medical details?

Google’s Censorship Policy

Google has a strong policy against censorship. The company does not want to mess with its algorithms in any way. This means not removing information that is uploaded to Google, no matter how vile or damaging it might be. But the policy has come under fire from many critics lately.

Even though it’s easy to see why Google has a no censorship policy, there’s a flip side to this stance. The people that are harmed by information uploaded to Google don’t have any way to remove those details. This is why Google has decided to step in. Now, the company is starting to remove some information from searches that violate basic human rights.

Other Search Engines to Follow Suit

Google often sets the bar for other search engines. So while medical information removed from Google doesn’t mean removal from all search engines, it does mean that other companies might follow suit. It also means that Google is no longer censorship free, which may or may not be a good thing (depending on how you look at it).

YouTube, owned by Google, has also come under fire for the spreading of hatred through various YouTube videos. The video site has also been accused of allowing extremist groups to spread propaganda through the site. Some YouTube channels also use funds gathered through the site to fund extremist networks.

Google has since started to censor YouTube content and did issue an apology for this content. The abuse of social networks and search engines has made it impossible for companies like Google not to get involved in content. Even though censoring content is difficult (where does a company draw the line?), it can also be seen as necessary.

There’s still a lot of disturbing content, and private content, that can be found through a Google search. Your medical information won’t be part of it, though, starting today. The Google team will likely take a week or two to scrub the search engine clean, but your medical details should be secure from this point on.