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Japanese Court Orders Google Removal of Autocomplete Terms

A Japanese court ordered Google to suspend its autocomplete search suggestion feature for queries related to a specific man’s name. “The Tokyo District Court has approved a petition demanding that Google delete terms from its autocomplete search feature for Internet browsers after a man alleged it breached his privacy and got him fired, his lawyer said,” reports Japan Times.

Hiroyuki Tomita, the plaintiff’s attorney, is opposed to the autocomplete system and believes that the whole autocomplete system needs to be revised:

“It could lead to irretrievable damage such as a japanese court to google remove autocomplete featureloss of job or bankruptcy just by showing search results that constitute defamation or a violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium-sized companies.”

The man, whose name was withheld, decided to seek a court injunction after learning the autocomplete feature likely played a role in the sudden loss of his job several years ago and caused several companies to subsequently reject him when he applied for new jobs, Tomita said.

The man came to this conclusion after discovering that when people type his name into Google’s search engine, words suggesting criminal acts, which he is unfamiliar with, automatically appear. If a computer-suggested term is selected, more than 10,000 items defaming or disparaging him show up in a list, Tomita said.

Google has rejected the order, saying that its U.S. headquarters will not be regulated by Japanese law, and that the case, according its in-house privacy policy, does not warrant deleting autocomplete-suggested terms related to the petition, lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita said Sunday.

Google has stated they are “reviewing the order,” and released the following statement:

“A Japanese court issued a provisional order requesting Google to delete specific terms from autocomplete. The judge did not require Google to completely suspend the autocomplete function.”

Google continues to argue that the system is not an invasion of privacy, since the autocomplete functionality is based on an algorithm and not manually edited,

“Google does not determine these terms manually – all of the queries shown in autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users.”

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