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Japanese Court Orders Google To Turn Off Auto-Complete Function 236

An anonymous reader writes with news that a Tokyo District Court has granted its approval to a petition seeking to force Google to turn off the auto-complete feature for its search engine. "The petition against Google was filed by a Japanese man who claims the feature breached his privacy and eventually led to the loss of his job. According to the man, whose name has been withheld, when his name is typed into the Google search engine auto-complete suggests words associated with criminal behavior. And when those suggested searches are clicked, over 10,000 results are shown that disparage or defame him. According to the plaintiff, this negative Google footprint has prevented him from finding employment since his initial firing several years ago." Unfortunately for him, "Google has rejected the order, saying that its U.S. headquarters will not be regulated by Japanese law, and that the case, according to its in-house privacy policy, does not warrant deleting autocomplete-suggested terms related to the petition, lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita said Sunday."
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Japanese Court Orders Google To Turn Off Auto-Complete Function

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  • Instant is next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:20PM (#39477537)

    Great, now can we get a restraining order on the Live search feature too? It's giving me mental anguish

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:22PM (#39477561)

    A lot of places over there present search terms rather than URL's as references for objects. This is in the majority of advertising. It is wrong, but it is what is commonly done. They have confused address with search. And this is the result

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What? Did you even read the same summary as I did? Wait - don't answer that.

      He's complaining because when you type his name into google, the auto-completion suggests adding words to the end of your search, which leads you to ten thousand or so pages that indicate he's a criminal.

      The only remaining question is, what's his name?

    • Sort of like how US companies used to advertise AOL keywords rather than URLs, I take it?

      • ... the use of which has (finally) died in a fire. Perhaps they should take note, and stop walking on coals.

  • Whaaaaaaaat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:23PM (#39477573)
    You mean that out of the 7 billion people on this planet, there might be one with the same name? And he might be a criminal? GASP.
    No, what am I saying? That's crazy talk. Only one person can have that name, so clearly he did all those terrible things.
    Secretary? Go fire that guy in cubicle 3. Google said he's a criminal.
    • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:33PM (#39477711) Homepage Journal

      You mean that out of the 7 billion people on this planet, there might be one with the same name? And he might be a criminal? GASP.

      No, what am I saying? That's crazy talk. Only one person can have that name, so clearly he did all those terrible things.

      Secretary? Go fire that guy in cubicle 3. Google said he's a criminal.

      Just because his name is Brutal Killingspree doesn't mean he should instantly and permanently be associated with heinous crimes on the internet. Come on, talk about unreasonable.

    • Especially if the Japanese man in question is named Tanaka or Suzuki...
    • I side with the plaintiffs.

      John Wayne Gacy Jones

    • Maybe he actually did whatever it is that Google suggests his name is associated with? I have an acquaintance who got busted for dealing cocaine a while back. Now, Google's auto-complete suggests his name if you type in only the first three letters of his first name and surname - and if you complete the name, then it suggests two searches ("John Doe Town" and "John Doe Drugs") - both searches lead to pages of news sites about the drugs bust and his prosecution. Clearly, this is going to make it difficult fo

  • Alternative: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:24PM (#39477587)

    Court orders employers not to be morons.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:29PM (#39477641)

    The guy has a name. When you time the first 3-4 letters of the name, google autocompletes the name with a Crime word, which links to 10,000 entries about said crime. And the HR lady who is looking at this results thinks the guy is a criminal, so she puts his resume in the reject pile.

    I don't see how that is Google's fault. That's the fault of stupid HR ladies who don't know how to do a proper search (i.e. finish typing the guy's name).

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @03:49PM (#39477899)

    ... will be joining his lawsuit.

    • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @04:23PM (#39478255) Homepage

      Rick Santorum's name didn't turn up defamatory results on a Google search until he started claiming that sexual acts between consenting adults were morally equivalent to sexual acts involving children and animals. In other words, that's satire and political speech, not a mistake.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by lgw ( 121541 )

        And leaving it that way is political speech by Google. Which is fine, they have that right. Google has an oddball political bias anyhow.

        • Arguably people looking up "santorum" are likely to be looking for the sexual neologism, as opposed to those looking for "rick santorum". As a result, the higher rankings for 'santorum' are the search feature working as designed.

      • Also, whoever modded me "Flamebait", that looks an awful lot like "I disagree with this person's political leanings", when everything I wrote was simply verifiable fact about Rick Santorum's Google problem:
        Rick Santorum's original comments []
        Dan Savage [] on why he found those comments offensive.

  • . According to the man, whose name has been withheld, when his name is typed into the Google search engine auto-complete suggests words associated with criminal behavior.

    So you can sue someone in Japan without revealing who you are? Especially since in this case to problem is with the name of the plaintiff, this makes very hard for Google to defend themselves.

  • If Google is not ruled by Japanese law, why is every country on earth subject to American law on copyright?

    Not only that, but America claims that Americans everywhere on the planet are subject to American law no matter where they are.

    Julian Assange and Megaupload would be really surprised to hear about the concept that Japanese laws don't apply to America.

    America also maintains that our laws apply to anyone in the world who does business here, even to the limited extent of renting server space on our soil.

    • Corrections (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <> on Monday March 26, 2012 @04:12PM (#39478161) Homepage Journal

      1. There are international treaties and laws governing copyright enforced by Interpol.
      2. Please point me to a single official statement from the White House or American ambassador on this
      3. Assange has never been charged with a crime in the US. The US has not filed for his extradition. Megaupload had severs in the US that broke US law.
      4. If you do business in a country you are bound by those laws. Google had to abide by Chinese laws in China for example. So they shifted traffic to servers in Hong Kong where laws are different. This isn't a difficult concept and it is global.
      5. You've made a litany of unfounded, untrue statements.

      You would be correct if you suggested that the US government has encouraged nations to pass copyright protection laws. But even in doing so, they acknowledge that each country has its own legal jurisdiction and legal system. The United States arguably doesn't have any exports nearly as important as IP, so the government tries to protect those interests in negotiating with other nations. It is in the best interest that they do so.

  • []

    follow this link and read the 5 search engine. Seriously guys, theres more than google out there. This is just a small example. I'm pretty sure other search engines exists that are better than Google and not mentioned here

  • It strikes me that this is more a problem with our society's mindset rather than it being a problem with auto-complete or related search terms. I think most of us on here can grasp how many people may have the same names, or rather, just because one term is popular with another doesn't mean you've found a correlation of what exactly you had in mind. But we skew very highly for technical people on here.

    What about the population in general? I would say most people aren't familiar with the search and correl

  • by amoeba1911 ( 978485 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @04:10PM (#39478141) Homepage

    If your name is Bundy, it means you are either a serial killer or a pathetic shoe salesman.

    This story is somewhat similar to the Los Alfaques story where search results to a sunny beach resort returns pictures of burned corpses.

    • by Tanman ( 90298 )

      No, this is not similar.

      The burned bodies were *at the resort* because there had been a huge explosion there that killed many people. The resort was trying to censor history of the event because, much like a house in which the previous occupants had all been murdered, it was affecting their business.

      • The resort wasn't really trying to censor history, they were just trying to make it so a simple search on the resort name didn't turn up primarily references to links to the event rather than (or at least with higher ranking than) links to info on vacationing there. They were fine with more explicit searches for info on the explosion working as usual.

        • Then they can change their name. No one gives three fucks about four fucks in regards to their shitty little trailer park, but an industrial accident may one day be research material.
  • by Dr Herbert West ( 1357769 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @04:13PM (#39478167)
    Seems to me that the HR flacks are not doing their job properly if they associate a search cloud with the work history of a prospective hire. If I do a search for a person and "autocomplete" gives me unusual results, I don't immediately stop typing and have a spaz-- I take an extra second to finish the search. I can't even see how this could be considered a form of libel or slander, as in the "Santorum" situation (which I find to be hilarious, and not slander at all BTW). This guy's beef is with the HR departments, not the company that makes tools used by the lazy HR drones.

    Google is working exactly as it should-- associating popular searches with similar words. Let's say my name is Killroy, Bob-- does the judge really think that upon typing in "Kill" and upon seeing the following results: "killer elite, kill the irishman, kill bill, killer whale" the reasonable choice is to stop typing assume the applicant is a killer whale? Absurd.

    On a related note, I made a JAVA applet that uses autocomplete to generate "food" for little animated "animals": AutoComplete Hive Mind Cannibals []. I LIKE autocomplete, it is a weird profile of what people search for and what associations they make.
  • Seven years? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CosaNostra Pizza Inc ( 1299163 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @04:23PM (#39478261)
    Wouldn't it make more sense for him to change his name rather than put up with the supposed cause of his employment woes for seven years? It sounds suspicious to me. It seems more likely there are other underlying reasons why he gets fired.
    • He spends his work days googling himself.
    • Michael Bolton: Yeah, well, at least your name isn't Michael Bolton.
      Samir: You know, there's nothing wrong with that name.
      Michael Bolton: There *was* nothing wrong with it... until I was about twelve years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning Grammys.
      Samir: Hmm... well, why don't you just go by Mike instead of Michael?
      Michael Bolton: No way! Why should I change? He's the one who sucks.
    • by wrook ( 134116 )

      It's not so easy to change your name in Japan. First, your name is recorded in a family register. All citizens of Japan must be in a register. If you aren't you lose a lot of legal rights. When you get married, you *must* have the same name as your spouse, though either the man or the woman can change their name. When you change your name you must change it to your spouse's name. You can't make up a new one.

      There are a few other times where you are allowed to change your name in the register, but you

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @05:01PM (#39478605)

    So wait... Someone with his name apparently committed some crimes that were substantial enough to warrant being memorialized on the internet.

    He's not suing for libel or anything, he's suit for invasion of privacy. Does that mean he DID commit those crimes?

    There is so much fail in this I don't know where to begin:
    -Not hiring someone because of an unsubstantiated internet search
    -Suing google, demanding the disabling of a perfectly good feature instead of asking google to somehow adjust their indexes
    -(Potentially) committing crimes that get you plastered all over the internet in the first place.

  • Employers in Japan put your name in Google, and simply associate everything that comes up with you? They don't even check if it's the same person? This doesn't even pass a level 1 stink test.

  • by TheDigitalOne ( 105087 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:00PM (#39479037)

    My favorite Google link these days: []

    No login required, encrypted and no auto-complete, lets you actually finish typing what you want to search for without all the extraneous stuff popping up.

    This is what I have my default search setup to use.

  • by fullback ( 968784 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:22PM (#39479231)

    We don't have "Social Security" numbers, or any such tracking numbers in Japan. That makes it more difficult to cross-check people with the same name.

    Japanese companies are risk averse to the extreme and even if the chance that the man is the criminal referenced by Google is 0.000000001%, that may be enough to disqualify him for a job. Companies will not want the press, the tabloids or police anywhere near company property, even if it is a case of mistaken identity.

    Yahoo is the search engine king in Japan. The man would not have had this problem years ago or before Google's entry into the Japanese market. He is not suing Yahoo, only Google.

    Google has a registered company, an office, bank accounts, employees and a domain name, which can only be purchased with a physical address in Japan.

    He was not asking for a monetary reward. He will have to now in order to get Google's attention.

    I think the people taking Google's side in this would change their tunes if it was them and they were in Japan.

    • by kiore ( 734594 )

      Add to that the way that with on-line recruitment sites, when you place a job ad you get hundreds of responses from people who have training and experience only tangentially associated with the role you are recruiting and any easy way to reduce down the number of applicants you have to study in depth is welcome.

      Obviously with a .jp domain name and a registered office in Japan, Japanese courts are going to have a difficult time believing that Japanese law doesn't apply.

  • What's not clear from the article is whether or not the guy did all of the things that are found when you search his name.

    If he didn't, then it seems a simple matter to tell employers that the guy that comes up when they search for him is a completely different guy. It would behoove him to do this no matter what Google does since not everyone uses Google to research job applications.

    Back when I was active with online dating, I Googled myself and discovered that I share the same name as the brother of a man

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault