If the thought of a stranger accessing your medical history online gives you the creeps, you’re not alone: In an effort to tamp down on the spread of such private information, Google has started wiping private medical records from its search results.
As of Thursday, Google had updated the list of information it scrubs from search results to include: “confidential, personal medical records of private people.”
A company spokesperson confirmed to Bloomberg that the changes don’t affect search advertising but didn’t comment further.
Among other things, Google also takes down webpages with identifying financial information, content that violates copyright laws, and revenge porn.
Why might your personal medical records be online in the first place? Just like other kinds of private information, hacks, data breaches, and security glitches can happen in the health industry just like they do in any other consumer-facing area.
As our colleagues at Consumer Reports have noted, hospital data breaches are a fairly regular occurrence these days and can result in your Social Security number, health insurance ID, and other personal information being exposed and misused.
Health insurers, doctors’ offices, and other types of medical facilities have all been targeted as well. Personal patient information was compromised more than once per day, on average, across the healthcare industry last year, according to healthcare data security firm Protenus.