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Tokyo court censors results from Google autocomplete

updated 07:01 am EDT, Tue April 16, 2013

Results of searches continue to link man to criminal acts

A Japanese court has ordered Google to censor terms used in autocomplete that relate to one specific person. The ruling by the Tokyo District Court also awarded the unknown person 300,000 yen ($3,100) for the "mental anguish" endured, caused by the association of his name with various criminal acts in autocomplete-derived searches.

The claim by the unnamed plaintiff, represented by lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita according to the Economic Times, saw that when Google users typed his name into the search box, the autocomplete function suggested criminal acts as extra search terms. Results of these extended search strings brought users to websites that further defamed the man.

It is noted that this is a continuation of a case from March last year, which ended with Google being ordered to turn off autocomplete entirely. It was believed by the unnamed plaintiff that the feature caused the loss of his job, and that requests by Google to unlink his name and the words were denied, due to Google's statistics-based system picking the likely search terms, and therefore did not violate his privacy. Despite the court order, Google kept autocomplete intact in the country, due to search results being compiled outside of Japan.

The situation relating to search processing remains unchanged, and so the court cannot force Google to make the change, but the company has said it will study the ruling.

by MacNN Staff



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