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Toyko court fines Google for linking an innocent man to crime

Asks firm to change autocomplete feature
Tue Apr 16 2013, 15:19

A JAPANESE COURT has fined Google $3,100 for the uncensored results shown in its autocomplete feature that linked an innocent man to crime.

This case has been going on for some time. A Japanese man. who remains anonymous, complained to the Tokyo District Court after he discovered that his name was being linked to a crime he didn't commit in Google's autocomplete feature. Clicking on the results apparently brought up a website that defamed the anonymous man, he said in his lawsuit.

He said this implied that he was guilty, although apparently he was not, and said it damaged his social status. He also said that the search results lead to him losing his job, and now he can't find another one.

In March we wrote that Google had been told to change its autocomplete feature, but reports claimed that because Google's search functions are not based in Japan, the court could not make Google do so.

However the Tokyo court on Monday asked Google to do so once again, and fined the firm for the slip-up. We imagine Google isn't very bothered by the decision though as it's been ordered to hand over just $3,300. The anonymous non-criminal had originally demanded $144,000 in damages, so he's probably not too pleased.

Google has yet to comment on the ruling, with a Japanese Google spokesperson saying that the firm would examine the ruling. However in March it defended its position.

Then a Google spokesperson said, "Autocomplete is a feature of Google search that offers predicted searches to help you more quickly find what you're looking for. These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms. Google does not determine these terms manually - all of the queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users."

This isn't the only trouble Google has encountered recently. There is also an investigation in Europe regarding its alleged "anticompetitive search results", which apparently is nearing resolution, and Fairsearch Europe recently complained about Google's practices in its Android mobile operating system. µ


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