Google Mistakenly Labels The Internet as Malware

Google (s GOOG) labeled the entire Internet as malware earlier this morning (between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST), warning visitors that pretty much every web site could harm your computer. The news spread across the blogophere and Twitterverse pretty quickly. Many speculated that the problem arose from Google’s efforts to integrate the malware-blocking functionality promoted by collaborator, a not-for-profit group. Google confirmed that in a blog post. “What happened? Very simply, human error,” said Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience:

Update: We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list. We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning.

Since each case needs to be individually researched, this list is maintained by humans, not algorithms. We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs.

I have two thoughts about this problem. First, it shows that Google has become the single point of failure in our digital lives, whether we like it or not. These problems — human errors as Marissa calls them — are not going to go away, as the company becomes bigger, offers more services and extends control on our digital lives.

Secondly (and more importantly), if all of us are going to be obsessing about Google’s epic fail on a Saturday Morning, then maybe the message should have said “this computer may harm your life.” OK people, go and enjoy the weekend. I am about to do the same!