Japanese court orders Google to halt auto-complete function as it breaches one man’s privacy

Tokyo District Court has ordered search giant Google to suspend its auto-complete function because it breaches one man’s privacy. Tokyo District Court approved a petition by the man, who claimed typing his name into the search engine generated a suggestion linking him to crimes he did not commit, lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita said. Auto-complete is a function provided by many search engines that predicts what a user may be looking for. It is often based on what previous users have searched for when they typed the same initial letters of a word. If a user accepts the search suggestion, thousands of results are produced that imply criminality of which the man is not guilty. The lawyer added that since these postings began appearing on the Internet over the last few years, his client has had difficulty finding work, with his online reputation always in question.

Tomita said the auto-complete function was problematic because it guides users to sites that may contain false or misleading information. The man may seek financial damages in a bid to press Google to erase the suggested search, said Tomita, who was trained in California and has taken on many Internet-related cases, including online reputation issues. Google has responded to the man’s complaints by saying that since the results are compiled automatically there is no intrusion of privacy.

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