Google has been ordered to delete the search data related to an individual which created a situation where inserting the name of the individual in the search bar would result in auto-fill results associating crimes with said person.
This is only the latest example of search engines being told they’re going too far when it comes to disrupting the life, and the future of individuals who are wrongly associated with things that could potentially damage their reputation, name, or lifestyle. And living in the digital age, it isn’t really a stretch at all.
Google has for a long time now employed an auto-fill feature which as you type in the search engine, makes it a little more interactive and gives users the opportunity to think while they’re typing, or in this case searching. It gives users the opportunity to see what other people are searching, what searches are trending, and most importantly what searches will yield the most results.
Google was forced to delete about half of the 237 entries that appear after the individual’s name, which wasn’t released for obvious reasons. The individual requested an injunction in June – alleging that the crimes that were associated with him after he typed his name in would damage his credibility, reputation, and potential lifestyle.
It begs the question, where is the line drawn?
However, this ruling comes after the European Union’s upper-most court ruled in May that people have the right to ask Google to delete information that they deem personal, and information that is produced by the search engine. The ruling went on to point out that individuals have a very specific right, “to be forgotten,” when personal data either becomes damaging or is outdated.
Japanese courts agreed in this case as well. Judge Nobuyuki Seki said that the results “infringe personal rights,” and that Google “has the obligation to delete them.” This though isn’t the first time that something like this has occurred. Last April a Japanese court had to de-link words in its autocomplete function again which associated certain criminal acts with an individual when the name was entered into the search bar.
While this case was based on search results, and not the autocomplete function, it does raise significant questions about the legitimacy of some of its results, and how courts could rule moving forward on them.