UK users’ guide to self-isolation of Google services incorrectly


  • Google has reportedly shown UK users incorrect instructions on the rules for COVID-19 self-isolation.
  • The Guardian discovered that Google was offering incorrect advice snippets through its “common questions” box.
  • The error appears to have been removed. Google said some snippets didn’t always offer the full context.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

Google has reportedly provided UK users with incorrect snippets of government guidelines on self-isolation after being exposed to COVID-19.

The tech giant has worked to counter disinformation around the pandemic over the past year, banning websites from serving advertisements on “dangerous content” that go against scientific consensus and join a fact-checking group created by UK charity Full Fact to help end inaccuracies about the spread of the virus online

According to The Guardian on Monday, however, Google incorrectly provided incorrect sections of UK government guidance as part of its automated “common questions” drop-down feature.

Common questions about Google COVID

Google’s common questions feature extracts answers to users’ search queries from official sources.


In the UK, people contacted by the National Health Service’s testing and traceability system, or questioned by their COVID-19 app, are required to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of exposure. This guidance remains valid even if the person has tested negative for the virus, as symptoms may still occur.

But The Guardian found Google’s drop-down feature for related queries, such as “Can I stop self-isolating if my test is negative for COVID-19?” The suggested response was: “If your test is negative, you will no longer have to self-isolate.” “

On the official government guidance page, however, this advice is clearly directed to those who have isolated themselves because they have developed symptoms common to those with COVID-19, such as a cough or fever, but whose test is then negative.

Google appears to have removed the answer from its “common questions” feature overnight, and it was no longer showing on Tuesday when Insider entered a similar search query.

Google told The Guardian that although the search snippets have been reviewed by medical professionals, they “may be presented alongside queries that are irrelevant or do not provide full context.”

“Common questions and answers in Google search are generated by Google. The Government Digital Service (GDS) ensures that all information on is clear and accessible directly from search engines, such as Google,” a British government spokesperson said. .

“ is playing a vital role in helping individuals and businesses get the latest information and support in response to the pandemic. COVID-19 content and services are regularly updated to ensure they reflect the latest government policy.

Insider has contacted Google for further comment.

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