The Tokyo District Court issued an injunction Oct. 9 ordering Google to remove search results regarding a Japanese man. These results are considered to be violating his privacy.
More than 144,000 European citizens have taken advantage of their "right to be forgotten" since the European Court of Justice ruled that they had such a right in May. The ruling by the Tokyo District Court is the first such ruling in Japan.
"This is good news for those who feel their lives are threatened and are sickened physically and psychologically by Google's search results," said (subscription required) the plaintiff's lawyer, Tomohiro Kanda. "It was groundbreaking that the court didn't see the search engine in a special light as it had been before."
The order included around 120 of the 230 search results that lead to articles concerning the man's past criminal activity. The man said he felt like his life was endangered by results that were shown when his name was searched.
"We remove pages from our search results when required by local law, including Japan's long-standing privacy and defamation laws," said Google in a statement. "We're currently reviewing this preliminary injunction from the Tokyo District Court,"
The ruling in Japan is not the first time that Google has had to remove search results about individuals. In fact, since it was ruled that citizens in Europe had the "right to be forgotten," Google has received 144,907 requests to remove search results, according to the company's transparency report. Those requests include 497,507 different web pages, with Google so far having taken down 170,506 of those. It has declined to remove 237,561.
As part of the "right to be forgotten" law, users can request that search engines remove search results if they believe that those results infringe on their privacy in any way, or if they think that it is no longer valid.
Google has publically criticized the ruling, saying that it was a disappointment for search engines. Despite this, the search company has had to comply and has posted a form online that users can fill out if they feel that search results should be removed.
One of the reasons for Google's criticism is the fact that it has no control over what people post online. Because of this, the company cannot remove other people's websites, but it can remove search results that lead to those web pages.
Google ultimately makes the decision on which results should be removed. Based on examples of results that have been removed, it seems that many requests come from individuals who have been accused of a crime or one who is a victim of a crime. Google has formed an advisory council, which debates and discusses the results removal process.