Google Autocomplete, Related Search reveal rape victims' names

Occurred: May 2018

Google's Autocomplete and Related Search systems exposed the names of rape victims in the UK. Victims are entitled to lifelong anonymity under UK law. 

An investigation by The Times newspaper discovered that searches for attackers or alleged attackers automatically revealed the names of the women they had been accused of raping. It also found that searching for a victim's name brought up the abuser's name as a related search.

The finding called into question the safety and legality of the two systems. Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller MP said: ‘Google has to operate within the law of the UK – if that means they have to change how their search engine operates then so be it.’ 

Google responded by saying: ‘We don’t allow these kinds of autocomplete predictions or related searches that violate laws or our own policies and we have removed the examples we’ve been made aware of in this case.'

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google
Country: UK
Sector: Govt - justice
Purpose: Predict search results
Technology: NLP/text analysis; Deep learning; Machine learning  
Issue: Legal; Privacy; Safety
Transparency: Governance; Black box