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Japan court orders Google to remove search terms in privacy case

The Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese] has ordered Google Inc. [corporate website] to remove certain search terms that a Japanese man has claimed violate his privacy. The plaintiff, whose name has not been released, petitioned the Tokyo court to order Google to remove his name [Kyodo report] from its auto-complete search function, which prompts users with suggested search terms. The man claims that the search feature violates his privacy by suggesting his name in connection with crimes he did not commit. He told the court that the feature caused him to lose his job and has kept him from finding work because of his alleged online reputation. The court approved the petition last week and notified the company. A Google spokesperson on Monday responded to allegations, saying that there was no intentional privacy violation [AFP report] because the search results arrange automatically using terms provided by Google users. The spokesperson also said that Google has not followed the court order because Japanese law does not control the US company and because the company's privacy policy does not require removal of terms.

Google has faced both international and national criticism over its privacy policy. Last week, the Commission Nationales de l'Informatque (CNIL) [official website], France's data protection regulator, gave Google three weeks to answer questions [JURIST report] about its new privacy policy [text] as part of a Europe-wide investigation on behalf of all European data protection regulators. The new policy, which took effect earlier this month, may violate European law [JURIST report] according to the EU's Justice Commissioner Vice-President Viviane Reding [official website]. Last month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed [JURIST report] a suit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] to block Google's proposed privacy policy changes. The new policy allows a user's information to be shared among different Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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