Good news if you’re a) still dodging rumors about the massive piles of cocaine you did in college and b) German. Bloomberg News says a German high court has ruled that Google is responsible for anything libelous that might pop up in autocomplete.
“The search additions affect the plaintiff’s privacy rights as they convey the statement that there is a relationship between the plaintiff and the negative words,” the court ruled.
This is going to add, like, 15 minutes of work for Berliners trying to screen cult leaders and shady apartment brokers.
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.