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Monday, April 18 12:00 AM ET

Disgusted Internet Surfer Discovers Finger in Google Image Search

By Matthew T. Sussman

Cleveland, OH - A casual Internet surfer discovered a human finger in a routine Google Image Search, authorities said Wednesday.

Harold Barker, 24, typed "Eliza Dushku" into Google's image search engine, and after a few pages, discovered a picture of a human finger.

"It was revolting," Barker said. "You don't expect to find something like that when looking for picture of hot women."

Barker did not download the picture of the finger, but he was rattled. "It was on my computer for a few seconds," Barker said. "I can still picture it there. God, that freaks me out."

Image Search is used by millions of Google users who wish to find pictures rather than Web sites. While the convenience of the search has helped several people, search results do not always come up with the images they want.

"I remember one time I put in a query for 'dart', because I wanted some clipart of darts," said freelance graphic artist Jeff Bzdenowski. "Up came this map of Europe. What the hell?"

Google did not return calls Wednesday, but did release a statement saying they are "looking into it" and recommended to all Google users to "refine their searches so they can conveniently and efficiently find the images they want."

While Barker has not yet decided to sue Google, he says he's still "shaken up over the whole incident."

"You search Google for images of Eliza Dushku, you expect images of Eliza Dushku," Barker said. "It doesn't make sense. How does that even get there?"

Computer expert Nathaniel R. Beechstone believes Barker's incident is a rarity in Google Image Search's algorithm.

"The way they set up their search algorithm, it would take a monumental effort by Webmasters across the globe to rig the filenames and content of their images," Beechstone said.

But Barker isn't convinced.

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"It's flawed," he said. "I wanted some hot body pics, but not of fingers."

When asked if he would use Google's service in the future, he was uncertain. "I'd like to say I would, but when things like this happen, it's hard to go back. Even if I used Yahoo's image search, that same fear grips me. I just wish Google was more careful. I wish they'd fess up to some wrongdoing."

Added Barker, "But I'll still eat at Wendy's. I love that chili."

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