Google Autocomplete conflates Bettina Wulff with 'prostitute'

Occurred: September 2019

Bettina Wulff, wife of former German president Christian Wulff, sued Google in September 2012 for infringing her personal rights by associating her name with terms such as 'escort', 'prostitute', and 'red light district'.

Wulff had sued Google at Hamburg's Regional Court, claiming she had never worked as a prostitute or escort and accusing the search engine company's Autocomplete search prediction function of 43 unfair word combinations.

Google responded by saying Autocomplete merely reflects what others are already searching for online. Wulff had spent years defending her reputation against these rumours, and had successfully issued 34 cease-and-desist orders. 

In 2013, Germany's Federal Court of Justice ruled that Google must delete automatically generated search predictions if they directly violate the personal rights of users, leading Google to change its policies.

In 2015, Google settled with Wulff in an out-of-court agreement.

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google

Country: Germany

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Predict search results

Technology: NLP/text analysis; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation; Legal

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Legal


Legal, regulatory

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