Google’s autocomplete functionality, which suggests search terms as you type based on how often the terms are searched for, is a boon for lazy typers and people who aren’t sure how exactly to spell “Massachusetts” (how many s’s???). But autocomplete can be a life-ruiner if it proves that people frequently search for your name + an unflattering adjective/event.
Take the case of Australian surgeon Dr. Guy Hingston, whose autocomplete results suggest you search for “bankrupt” when Googling his name. Dr. Hingston is so upset at the inaccurate portrait painted by the GOOG that he filed a suit in a California court, claiming the negative autocomplete results have cost him business as a plastic surgeon.
Of course, Dr. Hingston was involved in a bankruptcy incident when an aviation company he bought went under soon after. The bankruptcy was officially annulled, but that wasn’t enough to scrub the evidence of the situation from Google. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr. Hingston wants “$75,000 in damages plus court costs for the ‘significant harm and economic loss’ caused by the matter.”
Dr. Hingston isn’t the first person to sue based on Google’s embarrassing autocomplete issues. The company had to pay a man $200,000 in damages last year for falsely conflating him with a gangland crime in search results.
Wonder if Steve Ballmer will sue for his autocomplete results, because when people search for “Steve Ballmer developers” they’re definitely not looking for his dev hiring experience.