Japan Courts Order Removal Of Criminal Activity From Search As Privacy Violation

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Suggesting that there may soon be a European-style “Right to Be Forgotten” in Japan, two Japanese courts recently ordered Yahoo Japan and Google to remove indexed reports of criminal activity under the theory that individual privacy rights were being violated. The cases were discussed in the Japan Times.

Courts in Sapporo and Tokyo essentially arrived at the same result in two distinct cases. The Japan Times article doesn’t discuss the facts of these cases in detail except to say that an arrest record in one case and alleged criminal activity in another were in the past and their discovery in search results violated the involved individuals’ privacy rights.

In the Sapporo case Google was ordered to remove search results pertaining to an individual’s arrest in 2003. Google, according to the story, had previously declined to do so at the man’s request.

The nature of the arrest was not discussed. However the court asserted that because the event occurred more than 12 years in the past there was no “social significance” to keeping the record of the arrest “in the public domain” (i.e., search results).

There was also no discussion in the report about the criteria being used to evaluate the requests and determine when to remove search records. It appears these were lower level courts and so any value as legal precedent is unclear. However the fact of two cases reaching essentially the same result argues that there will be more such cases in the future in Japan.

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