Monday, 18 October 2021 10:28

How a Google search could end up endangering a life Featured

How a Google search could end up endangering a life Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A Google search summary of measures to be carried out after a seizure left out the words "do not", resulting in instructions that could well kill a person.

Soft Linden, the director of information security at Linden Lab, a developer of digital entertainment, said in a tweet on Sunday that the summary of a page about what one should do after a seizure differed sharply from the original.

A search for the words, "had a seizure now what?" brought up a Google summary that said one should "Hold the person down or try to stop their movements. Put something in the person's mouth (this can cause tooth or jaw injuries).

"Administer CPR or other mouth-to-mouth breathing during the seizure. Give the person food ot water until they are alert again."

The advice was cited as coming from -> seizures and had the heading "What to do During & After a Seizure | University of Utah Health."

But the actual page said these were things that one should not do.

google bogus

The Google search summary.

Another person posted a tweet showing that Google Home gave identical advice.

Linden's tweet gained sufficient traction to elicit a response from the University which said much later in the same thread: "We recently learned that a blog was displaying incorrect information in a question box generated by Google Search Engine.

seizure real

The actual information on the site.

"We have taken steps to modify the content and re-index the page in hopes that the information in the answer box will be modified by the Google Search Engine."

Update, 19 October: Contacted for comment on Monday, a Google spokesperson responded on Tuesday: "As soon as the problem was detected, we acted swiftly to resolve it both for the particular query and to help prevent this type of issue in the future." 

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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