Home Security Google aiding in identification of rape victims: claim

Google aiding in identification of rape victims: claim

Google's related search function. Google's related search function. Supplied

Google is aiding people in bypassing anonymity orders issued by courts in the UK by allowing them to uncover the identity of rape victims who are allowed to remain anonymous under the law, it has been claimed.

The Times reported that both searches for attackers and alleged attackers in well-known sexual assault cases had thrown up the names of the women whom they had been either convicted of attacking or else alleged to have attacked.

The newspaper said that entering a victim's name in the search engine could end up flagging an alleged abuser or actual convicted abuser.

Apart from this, vulnerable defendants who had been assured they would remain anonymous could also be unmasked.

The names are surfaced by the search engine's autocomplete and related search features which are meant to throw up content relevant to an individual's search terms.

If one were to obtain the name of a victim that has been kept anonymous, using one's own sources, and then use it as a search terms, these would then be indexed by Google.

And later, if someone typed in the name of the other party in the case, then the name of the victim would surface.

In a response to The Times, Google said it had deleted the four instances discovered by the newspaper.

Contacted for comment, a Google spokesperson said: “We don't allow these kinds of autocomplete predictions or related searches that violate laws or our own policies and we have removed the examples we’ve been made aware of in this case.

"We recently expanded our removals policy to cover predictions which disparage victims of violence and atrocities, and we encourage people to send us feedback about any sensitive or bad predictions.”


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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