Online archive DermAtlas, which compiles medical photographs of human skin, received some weird search requests, so dermatologists decided to investigate. After monitoring for six months, they reported a high statistical likelihood that people were "seeking pornography," not dermatological information.
The paper detailing one medical database's brave attempt to figure out whether anyone was actually using their archive for non-pornographic reasons is probably the best scientific paper we've seen in months. The paper's title - "Detection and management of pornography-seeking in an online clinical dermatology atlas" - already pretty much says it all, but DermAtlas was serious about determining who was looking for what:
METHODS: Web usage/request patterns were examined over a 6-month period for requests by anatomic site, diagnosis, and age group plus anatomic site. Free-text queries and referrals from external Web sites were reviewed.
RESULTS: Of 7800 images, 5.5% contain genital sites. Of all requests, 11% were for anatomic sites (37% genital sites); 62% were specified for diagnoses (12% genital sites). When age group and anatomic site were specified, the relative risk of a child being requested (vs adult) was 1.48 (95% confidence interval 1.44-1.53). Of 10000 free text queries, 12% retrieved images containing genital sites. Of all referrals, 14.3% originated from nonmedical (pornography/fetish) Web sites.
I firmly believe there are no questions science should not attempt to answer. But yeah...this might have been something we were all better off not knowing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check out DermAtlas - for purely medical reasons, of course.
Photo from Flickr