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Google in Trouble Over Auto-Complete, Again

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For the uninitiated, Google’s (GOOG) auto-complete function has spawned a number of games -- and at least one investigation into its racism as compared to Bing (MSFT). The games, which are about as amusing as they are potentially disturbing (type in “is it wrong to” for proof) involve guessing the top ten auto-complete results for a particular topic. Here’s one of the best put together, but bear in mind that it’s distracting and potentially NSFW.

Inevitably, the same technology -- or societal flaw, the difference is kind of a matter of opinion -- that produces results like these, has spawned a backlash. Most recently, the feature ran into trouble in Japan.

Yesterday, the Global Post reported on a Japanese court’s ruling that auto-complete violates user privacy. The court ordered Google to delete certain items from auto-complete, but not to eliminate the function, a company spokesman said in a statement.

The case began when a Japanese man discovered that he was the subject of more than 10,000 disparaging Google search results. The results associate the man with crimes he did not commit -- although someone sharing his name may have -- and have negatively affected his career and social life.

The petition was approved on March 19, but Google has so far taken no action to resolve the issue. The company has told reporters that, “its headquarters in the US will not be regulated by Japanese law.”

This is not the first time that Google has run into legal trouble thanks to its auto-suggest feature. Last year, an Irish hotel sued the company for defamation after a top suggestion had it in receivership. That case was eventually withdrawn.

A French court also ruled against Google after the word scam was auto suggested following searches for a certain company. The court ordered the tech giant to pay a $65,000 fine.

In all of these cases, Google has argued that it isn’t responsible for auto-correct content, as an algorithm produces it. Obviously, the success of this argument has been limited.

Still, a quick check of Google Japan this afternoon shows auto-correct up and running as usual.
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