Help, Google Says I'm Gay
from the tales-from-the-playground dept
An English soccer player is suing a couple of the country’s tabloids in an unusual libel case. The tabloids ran stories detailing the sexual activities of two well-known soccer players and a music-industry figure, never naming them, but running photos with their faces blurred out. Now one player, Ashley Cole, is suing the papers for “false privacy”, alleging their stories sparked off third-party speculation that Cole was one of the players, and that he was gay. Where things get a little more interesting is that Cole’s lawyer has contacted Google, wanting to know why when users search for “Ashley Cole”, Google suggests “see results for “Ashley Cole gay”. The lawyer wants to know if the alternate-results suggestion is an “editorial decision”, or — as seems more likely — a result of the heavy increase in people searching for “Ashley Cole gay” over the last several days. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before Google gets hit with a lawsuit for something like this, given that it’s a big target and the increasing scrutiny under which how it guards the privacy of its users is coming. But like the Perfect 10 case, any blame here is misplaced, assuming that the alternate search terms are the result of some computer algorithm — Google can’t be held responsible for the things for which its users search.