Japan orders Google to 'forget' a user's past

A judge in Japan is setting a precedent similar to Europe's 'right to be forgotten' in Google search results. 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. A Tokyo District Court ordered Google Japan on Thursday, Oct 9, 2024 to remove search results that hinted at the man’s relations with a criminal organization after he complained his privacy rights were violated.

A Japanese judge has ordered Google to remove search results of a man's unflattering past in an order the plaintiff's lawyer compared to Europe's "right to be forgotten" ruling.

The Tokyo District Court ordered Google Japan on Thursday to remove search results that hinted at the man's relations with a criminal organization after he complained his privacy rights were violated.

Google spokesman Taj Meadows said the company has a standard process for removal requests, and people can come to Google.

"We remove pages from our search results when required by local law, including Japan's longstanding privacy and defamation laws," he said. He said the company was reviewing the ruling.

The plaintiff's lawyer, Tomohiro Kanda said the case addressed privacy, defamation and other issues defined by Japanese law but also took the European "right to be forgotten" ruling in May as an example and used some of its logic and language.

In that case, Europe's highest court ruled Google should delete references to negative past information, including old debts and past arrests.

As The Christian Science Monitor, within days of the European ruling, Google received some 50,000 requests for removal.

These are some of the questions being raised as Google begins to remove search results in its first implementation of the European Union's so-called right-to-be-forgotten ruling. The ruling lets people in the European Union submit a form to Google requesting that they be removed from its search results if they feel the information on them is outdated or reveals personal details they want to keep private. A team at Google then determines whether that person's right to be anonymous is more important than keeping that information front and center in its search results for ease of public access. To date, Google has received a reported 50,000 requests for removal since the ruling was implemented last week. 

"We asserted Google as a controller of the site had the duty to delete the material," Kanda told The Associated Press. "We are fighting the same battle as the one in Europe, and we won a similar decision."

Some experts say Japan needs to define the borders of privacy and search functions.

In the court injunction, Judge Nobuyuki Seki said some of the search results "infringe personal rights," and had harmed the plaintiff, according to Kyodo News.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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