Early this morning a few lone souls noticed that Google Search was behaving a bit oddly. Google had flagged every site returned with the message “This site may harm your computer.” The problem started happening around 6:30 a.m. PST. Several tech news sites (Ars Technica, Slashdot) quickly picked up on the problem and posted stories about the issue only a few hours later.
Luckily, Google wasn’t sitting still either. By 9 a.m. they had posted a detailed statement on their official blog attributing the problem to “…human error.”
Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.
This statement was revised several times in response to a statement by StopBadware.org.
All in all Google did a fantastic job in a difficult situation. Many users were put out by this error. Imagine having your e-commerce site flagged as being potentially harmful every time someone googled for you, even if it was only for half an hour. This could lead to lost sales or at least confusion.
Luckily Google’s official statement was apologetic, detailed and accurate. They worked with StopBadware.org to clarify any misleading wording and were completely transparent about the updates made to their initial statement.