Google has typically had a hands-off approach when it comes to removing content from search results, but this week the company quietly decided add a new category to that list. According to Bloomberg, an update on Google’s policy page reveals the company has begun purging "confidential, personal medical records of private people" from its search results pages.
Previously, Google had only removed webpages with identifying financial information, such as credit card numbers or bank accounts as well as images of signatures and content that violates copyright laws. It also removes sexually explicit images that were uploaded or shared without consent.
The category addition appears to come in response to an incident late last year where an Indian pathology lab mistakenly uploaded 43,000 patients' blood tests, including their names and corresponding HIV test results. Given that Google’s indexing system will capture anything that’s publicly accessible on the internet, the records were easily accesible through a search.
Today's move should limit the damage caused by leaks, hacks and errors by medical institutions.
Other than the categories listed in the policy page, the only way you could get your info pulled from Google results is to take advantage of EU's "Right to be forgotten" rule, though that only applies EU citizens.
Google’s algorithmic approach to indexing is meant to avoid censorship but has also come under scrutiny over the last few years due to the spread of fake news and misinformation. Earlier this year, the company announced its plans to combat this with direct feedback tools and down ranking contested information.