Japan court orders Google to halt auto-complete function
Tokyo: A Japanese court has ordered search giant Google to suspend its auto-complete function because it breaches one man's privacy, his lawyer said.
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 told media yesterday.
If a user accepts the search suggestion, thousands of results are produced that imply criminality of which the man is not guilty, Tomita said.
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.
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.
The details of this case are not known, but it is possible that the plaintiff shares a name with someone who is legitimately associated with a crime.
Tomita said the auto-complete function was problematic because it guides users to sites that may contain false or misleading information.
Google has responded to the man's complaints by saying that since the results are compiled automatically there is no intrusion of privacy, Tomita said.
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.