Google Stops Indexing Our Personal Medical Data...For The First Time?!
On Thursday, June 22nd 2017, Google quietly added a single line to their Removal Policies page, and the nature of it is a little disturbing.
Google Indexed Private Medical Records
Google added the following line to their Removal Policies page, where they outline which types of information are scrubbed from the index: ““confidential, personal medical records of private people.”
It may not seem like much at first glance, but it means that Google has been indexing (recording and keeping track of) our personal medical records. It means this data is being stored without your knowledge.
According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson from Google confirmed that our personal medical records were only removed when an individual requests that they be removed.
Never mind the fact that it took them this long to protect our medical records. Why was the onus on the unsuspecting individual to have to request that data of the most sensitive type is scrubbed from Google in the first place?
Types of Information Currently Removed
According to the Google Removal Policies page, “We want to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible, but there are a few instances where we will remove content from Search.”
They go on to talk about these instances as automatic removals:
- Child sexual abuse imagery
- Valid legal requests (ie. copyright infringement)
And then branch out into “information we may remove”:
- National identification numbers
- Bank account information
- Credit card numbers
- Images of signatures
- People publicly posting “Revenge porn” images
And now of course just added:
- Confidential, personal medical records of private people
Something to note is the next section “Information we usually don’t remove”:
- Date of birth
- Telephone numbers
Be very careful when giving these out to any entity over the Internet, because as you can see, they may be there a while (read: forever).
Remove Information From Google
As per Google, “You can ask Google to remove your sensitive personal information, like your bank account number, or an image of your handwritten signature, or a nude or sexually explicit image or video of you that’s been shared without your consent, from Google search results.”
If you need to do this, go to this Google Support Page, and fill out a short form.
While it’s good that Google finally came around to better protecting our most sensitive personal information, it is still pause for concern that it took this long and was indexed in the first place.
A citizen of the world should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but it seems we have none. If information such as our personal medical records are being recorded, then it means that information can be hacked and stolen as well.
This information could be used against us for unlawful acts, too. Imagine if your competitor, whom you are slowly driving out of business, finds out you’re allergic to peanuts?
If we do not defend our right to privacy, then we may end up with none at all.
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