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The culprit, according to the plaintiff's suit, is the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google's autocomplete function, which he alleged would link him to crimes he did not commit when Google users would begin typing his name in a search. The plaintiff, who was not identified, alleged he lost his job and has been unable to obtain employment since because of the negative autocomplete output.
Although Judge Hisaki Kobayashi did not conclude Google's autocomplete was to blame for the plaintiff losing his job, the judge did find a "situation has been created by which illegally submitted documents can easily be viewed."
It's doubtful whether Google will have to face the music because, as the AFP article noted, Google has no Japan-based data center, as it does in Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, so the Japanese Court's ability to exert influence is in doubt. For its part, Google argues autocomplete results are automatically generated and beyond its control.
The suggest function, which offers options when search terms are entered, has previously gotten Google into trouble in defamation cases in France (see "TUOL" post 9/27/10).