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Japanese court orders Google to halt search harassment

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday issued an injunction ordering Google Inc. to remove some Internet search results revealing the name of a man who claims his privacy rights have been infringed upon due to articles hinting he may have been involved in a crime in the past, according to a document obtained by Kyodo News.

Some of the results “infringe personal rights,” Judge Nobuyuki Seki said in the document. “Google, which manages the (Google) search engine, has the obligation to delete them.”

It is likely the first legal decision in Japan ordering the operator of a search engine to remove search results, according to the man’s lawyer.

In Europe, the move to protect the “right to be forgotten” through the removal of past personal data on the Internet has been gaining momentum.

In May, the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered Google to remove personal data related to a Spanish man so that the data no longer appeared in search results.

The Japanese man requested an injunction from the Tokyo court in June, saying his life had been threatened as hundreds of search results with information related to events more than 10 years ago were listed when his name was entered in the search engine.

Seki acknowledged that the “search site plays an important role so that the Internet can be used effectively.”

But the judge also admitted the man had suffered “actual harm” as the search results gave the impression that the man’s behavior was inappropriate, ordering Google to remove around 120 of about 230 search results, the documents said.

Google had opposed the decision, saying it had no obligation to remove the results. But the court dismissed the objection, saying, the U.S. company will not suffer an unjust disadvantage even if it is obliged to remove the search results.