Photograph by Flickr user cobalt123
On the morning of January 31, I was having difficulty with my wireless router at home. So I did what anybody in my situation would do, I conducted a keyword search in Google for the manufacturer of the router. As I scanned the Google search results page, I noticed a warning under every result “This site may harm your computer.” A little nervous that the bad people on the internet somehow infected my computer with a virus, I quickly conducted a similar search on Yahoo and found that Yahoo’s search results did not contain the warning.
Kas Thomas of cmswatch.com describes what happened:
Anybody who performed a Google search between 6:30 a.m. Pacific time (USA) and 7:25 a.m. saw the message “This site may harm your computer” as a link under each search result (even if you Googled “google”). Upon clicking any hit in the results list for any search, users were taken to a special Google warning page instead of the desired target page.
Ironically, the problem came about as the result of human error caused by a worker at a non-profit called StopBadware.org (which Google hires to look into every complaint about harmful sites sent to Google). Somebody mistakenly flagged “/” as a bad site. When it was entered in the system, Google dutifully flagged all sites as harmful.
Based on this incident, Thomas and Matt Asay from CNET ask these questions: Have we become too dependent on Google, especially when the simplest of human errors can disrupt the entire system? And if Google were to go down for a couple of hours, a day, or even several days, what would happen to our economy?
It got me thinking, but what do you think?
Hat tip: CNET news