Japanese court recognizes ‘right to be forgotten’ in suit against Google


A court in Saitama has recognized the “right to be forgotten” — the first ruling of its kind in Japan — in a case filed by a man demanding Google Inc. remove three-year-old news reports of his arrest in connection to child prostitution and pornography, according to newly discovered court documents.

This is the first time that a Japanese court has issued a decision referring to the right to be forgotten in ordering the removal of personal information from the Internet, legal experts said. Past decisions in demanding removal of search results cited the right to privacy.

The right to be forgotten has drawn attention since a 2014 European Court of Justice ruling in favor of a Spanish man who had demanded Google delete search results concerning the past seizure of property.

The latest court decision in Japan, which was issued on Dec. 22, could intensify debate within the nation about where to strike a balance between the right to be forgotten, and the public’s right to know and freedom of expression.

Presiding Judge Hisaki Kobayashi with the Saitama District Court ruled that, depending on the nature of a crime, the right to be forgotten should be recognized with the passage of time.

“Criminals who were exposed to the public due to media reports of their arrest are entitled to the benefit of having their private life respected and their rehabilitation unhindered,” Kobayashi said.

“In modern society,” the judge went onto say, “it is extremely difficult to live a calm life once information is posted and shared on the Internet, which should be considered when determining whether (the information) should be deleted.”

The actual case involves a man convicted of violating the child prostitution and pornography law and fined ¥500,000. He claimed his personal rights were infringed upon as news reports from more than three years ago appear whenever his name and address are entered into the Google search engine.

Last June, the Saitama District Court ordered Google to remove Internet search results that include media reports about the arrest of that man, saying his right to rehabilitation was being infringed. Google objected to that court order.

The provisional ruling was issued by the same court after reexamining the case.

Google has already appealed its decision reaffirming the order to remove the old news stories to the Tokyo High Court.

According to those involved in the case, arrest records of the man no longer appear in Google search results.

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