The Tokyo District Court ordered Google Japan last Thursday to follow Europe’s recent “right to be forgotten” ruling and remove the search results of a Japanese man’s past relations with a criminal organization following his complaint of violation into his privacy.
According to the judge preceding the case, some of the Google results “infringe personal rights” and had harmed the plaintiff.
The European Court of Justice ruled in May that anyone living in the European Union and Europeans living outside the region could ask search engines to remove links if they believed the online contents breached their right to privacy and are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
But despite the uproar and headlines in the aftermath, the dirty little secret is that nothing has really changed. What Google has effectively done is to remove results from name search of those names approved to be deleted but only on its European websites. The same results remain on the Google US homepage and all its non-European sites.
Furthermore, Google is only removing the results but not the links. Its European sites may have deleted the results for a search on a specific name but a search for the same name accompanied by other key words may still churn out the same results.
In an earlier Shhh-cretly column, I explained with examples why there is a limit on the extent of privacy and any attempt to manually and selectively remove the Google search contents, successful or otherwise, is like playing God.