Japanese court challenges Google over 'autocomplete' results

The Tokyo District court has sided with a Japanese man who claims that Google's autocomplete function is an invasion of his privacy.

Tokyo's District Court has approved a petition against Google by a Japanese man, who is demanding it suspends the autocomplete function over the invasion of his privacy.

According to the man's lawyer, Hiroyuki Tomita, he decided to seek legal action against Google when he discovered that the autocomplete function produced results of criminal acts in association with his name.

The man, whose name is undisclosed, says he has no knowledge of any of the suggested crimes.

However, he believes these defamatory suggestions in Google searches may have cost him his job a few years ago, and has subsequently damaged his search for employment ever since.

When selecting suggested words associated to his name, around 10,000 defamatory items come up.

The case was originally brought to the Tokyo District Court last October, after the man had written to Google requesting that it deleted certain words. Google rejected this request on the grounds that the autocomplete function produced the suggested words mechanically, and could therefore not be an invasion of privacy.

Google's help site explains that, "predicted queries are algorithmically determined based on a number of purely algorithmic factors [...] without human intervention."

Google is refusing to suspend the autocomplete function over the case. According to Tomita, Google is saying that its U.S. headquarters will not be regulated by Japanese law, and that the case does not warrant deleting autocomplete suggestions.

"It could lead to irretrievable damage such as a loss of job or bankruptcy just by showing search results that constitute defamation or a violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium sized companies," said Tomita.

The lawyer also said that his client will be taking further legal action if Google continues to refuse to comply with the court order. He added that "it is necessary to establish a measure to enable swift redress of damage in the event of a clear breach."

Image source: ZDNet.