This week a Japanese court ordered Google to delete about half of the search results for a man linked to a crime he didn’t commit, according to Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other local media. In May, the EU set global precedent by ruling that people have the right to ask search engines to remove links that are inaccurate or outdated.
The EU ruling set off a flurry of events including Google and Microsoft launching forms to deal with the mountain of requests, Google deleting links on EU search sites that are still available on the US site, and meetings of EU data protection groups and policy makers trying to figure out the logistics of how search engines should actually comply.
As precedent is set around the world in accordance with differing laws, traditions, cultures and opinions, it is unclear how the right to be forgotten will eventually affect the entire Internet and the way information is handled by service providers.
The Japanese man requested the injunction in June after the EU ruling. He argued the search results suggesting he is involved are a violation of his privacy and a threat to his way of life. “The man received tangible damage from the search results, which give the impression that he is a bad man,” according to the injunction.
Judge Nobuyuki Seki of the Tokyo District Court said in his ruling that some of the search results “infringe personal rights,” and had harmed the plaintiff, according to Kyodo News.
Google has a standard procedure for removal requests, even more defined now after the EU ruling. “We remove pages from our search results when required by local law, including Japan’s longstanding privacy and defamation laws,” said Google spokesman Taj Meadows to CTV News. Google is currently reviewing the injunction.
On Thursday Google released it’s latest online transparency report. So far about one-third of requests to remove links based on the EU decision are granted. Google removed more links to Facebook than any other site in response to the EU right to be forgotten judgement. Since the May ruling, Google has removed over 3,300 links to Facebook. These removals comprise nearly two percent of links removed.
The right to be forgotten may be spreading to the US as well. A recent poll reported that 61 percent of Americans support the right to be forgotten. A limited right to be forgotten-type law was recently enacted in California giving minors certain rights as part of its new California Online Privacy Protection act that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
It’s unclear how a law like this would play out in the US. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech above privacy rights. However, Europe places almost equal weight on people’s privacy and freedom of expression, which the EU court ruling clearly demonstrates.