Japan orders Google to remove auto-complete function over privacy complaint

Google has been ordered to disable part of its autocomplete function in Japan after complaints it violates privacy. According to a report by The Japan Times, the court was acting on a petition accusing Google’s autocomplete feature of being defamatory.

The petition was filed by a Japanese man (name not disclosed) who alleged that some of the autocomplete suggestions accompanying his name were not only defamatory but also breached his privacy. The unnamed petitioner, in fact, claimed that these defamatory search suggestions even cost him his job.

The man came to this conclusion after discovering that when people type his name into Google's search engine, words suggesting criminal acts, which he is unfamiliar with, automatically appear. If a computer-suggested term is selected, more than 10,000 items defaming or disparaging him show up in a list, Tomita said.

Google has so far not carried out the court's request - but said it was "reviewing the order". "A Japanese court issued a provisional order requesting Google to delete specific terms from autocomplete," the Google spokesperson said in a statement. "The judge did not require Google to completely suspend the autocomplete function."

Google defended the system, arguing that as results were generated mechanically - rather than by an individual it was not an invasion of privacy."These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms," the company said.

Google has been having a few problems with these sorts of cases. Last year when a British man was falsely accused of being a paedophile in a Google Places review the company had to pull it.The search engine also had to give in to an Indian law directing internet companies to block religiously offensive information from searches.

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