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Google Ordered To Modify Autocomplete Search Function In Japan

Every Google user is accustomed to autocomplete by now - the function whereby the search engine attempts to predict what you're searching for, as you're typing, based on the most typical, popular queries (and other algorithms).

In Japan, however, this seemingly innocuous - and often very amusing feature - has taken on a rather darker shade with the revelation that an anonymous man has hauled Google to court over it.

When the Japanese man's name is typed in, autocomplete offers options which link his moniker to unspecified (and presumably unsavoury) crimes which he's entirely innocent of. This has had the effect of smearing his reputation, and indeed his lawyer states that it has made it difficult for him to get a job.

The BBC notes that Google issued statement to say: "A Japanese court issued a provisional order requesting Google to delete specific terms from autocomplete."

The company clarified: "The judge did not require Google to completely suspend the autocomplete function."

Hiroyuki Tomita, the lawyer representing the man, said of the autocomplete search function: "It could lead to irretrievable damage such as a loss of job or bankruptcy just by showing search results that constitute defamation or a violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium-sized companies."

Google claims that as the results are mechanically determined, and not overseen manually, there's no privacy issue at stake. It hasn't yet complied with the court's request, but is considering the matter.

We sympathise with the man, and have a friend with a similar problem. Typing in his name brings up autocomplete options which include a serial killer and an old boy band member (we're not quite sure which is worse).