National / Crime & Legal

Sapporo court orders Google to erase search results on arrest of man in dropped sex assault case

Kyodo

A Sapporo court ordered Google Inc. on Thursday to erase some search results about the arrest of a man who claimed that information about the case, which was later dropped due to insufficient evidence, was an invasion of privacy.

It is the first court ruling in Japan ordering a search engine to delete information, according to lawyers familiar with such cases.

According to the Sapporo District Court ruling, the man was arrested in July 2012 on allegations of sexual assault but the charges were dropped in October of that year because of insufficient evidence.

The court ruled that the search results in question showing a crime-themed bulletin board give the impression that the man was found guilty, damaging his reputation.

His lawyer told reporters that the plaintiff is considering appealing the case because the ruling does not apply to some of the search results about his arrest.

Google declined to comment on the ruling.

In its first ruling on the subject matter, the Supreme Court said in 2017 that the deletion of search results can be allowed only when the significance of privacy protection clearly outweighs that of information disclosure.

The top court said then that approval should be based on factors including the degree of damage caused to privacy, how broadly specific searches can be carried out, the purpose and significance of the news articles at issue and the necessity of reporting accurate information about those involved.