A Tokyo court has ordered that Google suspend its autocomplete search function after a Japanese man claimed it violated his privacy and cost him his job.
The case is a first involving the search function, which instantly suggests words or phrases a person may want to look for before the user has finished typing.
So far, Google, headquartered in California, has refused to halt the feature, saying it will not be regulated by Japanese law and did not violate any privacy policies, according to the Kyodo news agency.
The man at the center of the legal case has not come out publicly, but his lawyer, Hiroyuki Tomita, says his client decided to seek a court injunction after he lost his job and failed at several attempts to land a new one. Tomita said Google searches of his client’s name suggested words involving criminal acts, and included 10,000 items that defamed or disparaged him. The man, whose name was not made public, believes that’s what led to his firing and derailed his efforts to find new opportunities.
Before turning to the court last October, Kyodo reports the man asked Google to delete certain words. But Tomita said the company rejected the request, saying the suggested words were being selected mechanically, not intentionally, and do not violate his privacy.
“It could lead to irretrievable damage, such as job loss or bankruptcy, just by displaying search results that constitute defamation or violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium-size companies,” Tomita told Kyodo.
“It is necessary to establish a measure to enable swift redress for damage in the event of a clear breach.”