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Lower court rejects Japanese ex-convict’s demand to delete criminal record from Google search results

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court has dismissed a convict’s demand to have Google Inc. remove records of his fraud case from over a decade ago from its internet search results.

“Leaving the fact of the arrest known at low cost serves the public interest,” presiding Judge Katsuhiko Okazaki said in Friday’s ruling.

The man, who led a fraud group based on cash withdrawals, received a suspended prison term, lives in Tokyo and runs a company. His lawyer plans to appeal.

Google welcomed the decision, which clashes with European and other legislation that protects “the right to be forgotten.”

“The ruling respects the right to know and access to information,” the search giant said in a comment.

“It was a high-profile case. The public interest has not faded away as only about five years have passed since his probation period ended,” Judge Okazaki said.

It is legitimate for clients to be able to learn about the man’s background as part of credit research, the judge said, while acknowledging the plaintiff may be inconvenienced if his acquaintances peruse the search results and choose to distance themselves from him.

The plaintiff said his arrest records can be found by searching for his name and address. Last November, the U.S. internet search giant removed the search results after a lower court issued an injunction ordering the elimination of his personal records. The man followed up by taking formal legal action against Google the following month.

Hiroshi Miyashita, an associate professor at Chuo University, pointed out that the ruling did not clarify how many years must pass after a suspended prison term ends, adding that the judgment is not consistent with the internet era of permanency and diffusion of information.

In the European Union, a legislative framework exists to protect “the right to be forgotten” and allows people to have their records removed from internet search engines.