Google Wins ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Court Case in Japan

February 1, 2017, 1:53 PM UTC
Man in front of a display with the website of the internet search engine Google.
Man in front of a display with the website of the internet search engine Google.
Photograph by Ulrich Baumgarten — Getty Images

Japan’s Supreme Court has rejected a man’s demand that a Google web search bringing up reports of his arrest for child prostitution be removed, the first ever such top court decision in Japan, media reported on Wednesday.

The man was arrested more than five years ago for paying a female high school student to conduct an indecent act and was fined 500,000 yen ($4,500), the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.

“Child prostitution is prohibited by the penal code and is a target of strong social condemnation,” the newspaper quoted the court bench as saying in its Tuesday ruling.

“Removal can be demanded only when value of privacy protection clearly exceeds freedom of expression of search sites,” the paper cited the ruling as saying.

No one was immediately available for comment at the Supreme Court.

Alphabet Google (GOOG), which last year appealed against an order from the French data protection authority to remove certain web search results globally, welcomed the decision.

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“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has unanimously recognized, based on existing privacy and defamation laws, that any decision to delete information from search results should prioritize the public’s right to information,” Taj Meadows, head of policy communications at Google Asia Pacific, said in a statement.

The European Court of Justice made a ruling in 2014 allowing people to ask the likes of Google and Microsoft’s Bing to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from results brought up by searching for their name.

The measure, known as the “right to be forgotten,” has pitted privacy campaigners against defenders of free speech.

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