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Japanese Court Orders Google to Suspend Autocomplete Feature

Google’s international legal team sure must be hopping these days. Between the European Commission trying to impact the company regarding privacy (at the behest of Google’s competitors no less) and continued privacy concerns in all four corners, Google has its hands full.

Now add to the list some trouble in Japan. A Japanese district court has ordered the search giant to stop using the autocomplete feature on the search engine based on the ruling in a case where a man claims his reputation was damaged by these results.

The Japan Times reports

The Tokyo District Court approved a petition demanding that Google Inc. suspend its autocomplete search feature for Internet browsers after a man alleged that it breached his privacy and got him fired, his lawyer said Sunday.

As one might suspect, Google is not exactly running to flip the off switch on this feature based on this incident. The article goes on to say

Google is refusing to suspend the feature, saying that its headquarters in the United States will not be regulated by Japanese law and that the case does not warrant deleting the autocomplete suggestions related to the petition under its in-house privacy policy, lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita said.

The complaint was made by an unnamed man who claims to have lost his job several years ago due to information that the autocomplete function associated with his name. He further claims that it has cost him other job opportunities since he was let go suddenly from the job mentioned in the case.

His claim is that his attempts to get Google to change these results were met with an answer that one might suspect from the search giant.

Before turning to the court last October, the man asked Google to delete certain words. Google rejected the request on the grounds that the suggested words were being selected mechanically, not intentionally, and thus do not violate his privacy, the lawyer said.

There are obviously more details that we are not privy to but this case is one that could be interesting to watch. Could this same kind of ruling make its way through other court systems of the world? If it did, would Google stay with the same answer they offered the Japanese court?

It’s a wonder that we don’t hear more cases like this. With billions of searches being done and people looking to hit the lottery through the legal system (I am not saying this gentleman is doing that in this case but it is a bit of a trend these days) should we expect to see increased activity in the courts to go after the search giant for every little thing it does.

One positive in this whole thing? I bet they are hiring in the international legal department at Google!