Google Ordered To Suspend Autocomplete In Japan


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Update: A Google spokesperson gave us 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 is currently reviewing the order.

“Autocomplete is a feature of Google search that offers predicted searches to help you more quickly find what you’re looking for. These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms. Google does not determine these terms manually--all of the queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users.”

After Google's autocomplete search function was found to be in breach of a Japanese citizen's privacy, the search engine giant is being demanded by the Tokyo District Court to suspend the feature, something Google has no plans of complying with.

The details of the case, as discussed by the Japan Times, are pretty straightforward. An individual believes the autocomplete suggestions associated with their name led to them being fired and has made it difficult to find new employment:

The man discovered that when people type his name into Google's search engine, words suggesting criminal acts, which he is unfamiliar with, appear. If the computer-suggested words are selected, more than 10,000 items defaming or disparaging him show up in a list, [lawyer Hiroyuki] Tomita said.

From Google's perspective, because the autocomplete suggestions are selected "mechanically" instead of intentionally, the individual's privacy was never violated. The man's lawyer, the aforementioned Tomita, believes Google should be made to comply with the ruling:

"It could lead to irretrievable damage, such as job loss or bankruptcy, just by displaying search results that constitute defamation or violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium-size companies. It is necessary to establish a measure to enable swift redress for damage in the event of a clear breach," Tomita said...

Google clearly does not agree, indicating that they, as United States company, will not allow their product to be regulated by Japanese law. Apparently, their position is also one where they don't feel autocomplete and an individual's privacy go hand-in-hand.

Considering Google's refusal to act on behalf of a whiny Rick Santorum, there's little surprise of their position concerning the Japanese citizen in question.