Privacy

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
autocomplete, japan, judges, privacy, technology

Companies:
google



Japanese Court Misunderstands Autocomplete, Orders Google To Turn It Off To Protect 'Privacy'

from the can't-judges-talk-to-techies? dept

Over the past few years, we've seen a number of lawsuits around the globe concerning Google's "autocomplete" feature, which takes common searches based on what you've already typed and suggests those as potential full searches. The feature can be pretty useful (and also amusing at times). In the US, the entertainment industry has freaked out about it, leading to Google's bizarrely hamfisted censorship of the results.

But that's not good enough for some. We've covered cases in France and Italy where Google was found liable for "suggestions" that a user didn't like (usually associating whoever was complaining with something bad). Of course, that totally misunderstands the feature and suggests that it's actually Google directly saying this is the best suggestion (in fact, I wonder if this is why Google stopped calling this "Google Suggest" and moved to simply calling it "autocomplete").

The latest, as pointed out by TNW, is that a court in Japan has actually ordered Google to turn off the feature entirely, claiming that it's a violation of privacy. Privacy? Huh? Basically, it sounds like a guy complained that searches on his name popped up suggestions with all sorts of bad things (the article says "criminal acts"), and the guy thinks his getting fired and difficulty finding another job was due to this. Of course, it's difficult to see how that's a privacy issue at all, or how it's Google's fault. Google claims that as a US company it has no obligation to obey the injunction.

The thing is, the guy remains unnamed. If he actually named himself, he might solve the problem by promoting more stories about how he's not actually associated with these crimes, and those would likely rise to the top. In the meantime, what does it take for a judge to ask someone who actually understands technology for some pointers before making a ruling that shows a basic ignorance of what the tech does?

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  1. icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 26 Mar 2012 @ 4:42pm

    Hmm. I typed in my own name and found something interesting: it didn't autocomplete anything about me being a criminal, a twit, or, well, anything.

    So I clicked Search and found:
    1. My resume page (same one I link to here)
    2. My Linkedin page
    3. My "My Favorite Techdirt Posts of the Week" post
    4. Images (mostly on FB or G+, and mostly other people)
    5. My Techdirt profile (apparently I signed up once using an old nick)
    6. My Techdirt profile (this one) (is there a way to combine them?)
    7. Three people named Jeffrey Nonken at whitepages.com (all are me, at different locations)
    8. One person named Jeffrey Nonken in Pennsylvania at three different locations (including Sacramento, Ca) (still all me)
    9. My TheRegister profile

    ...and so on.

    I don't know what my point is, I'm babbling.

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