Wow, Germany courts have done it again! They are so good at protecting the personal privacy of their citizens! Read on, it connects to an individual’s ‘right to be forgotten’.
Google have been been over-ruled concerning how the ‘autocomplete’ function in the search dialog works. Basically this is generated by what other users have been searching for. The reason why this has become a case for personal integrity, and also a person’s reputation is because words associated with a particular person, either by rumor or otherwise, and thus searched by users impacts that person’s reputation.
The case in question was when the complainants’ names were typed into Google’s search bar, the autocomplete function added the ensuing words “Scientology” and “fraud”.The continuing association of their names with these terms infringed their rights to personality and reputation as protected by German law (Articles 823(1) and 1004 of the German Civil Code).
What does this mean for Google? Well once Google has been alerted to the fact that an autocomplete suggestion links someone to libellous words, it must remove that suggestion.
According to Panopticon blog this German ruling is extending the “frontiers of legal protection for personal integrity and how we allocate responsibility for harm. Google says that, in these contexts, it is a facilitator not a generator. It says it should not liable for what people write (scroll down to “Google and the ‘right to be forgotten’” here, in Spain a previous case), not for what they search for (the recent German case). Not for the first time, courts in Europe have allocated responsibility differently.”
One Reply to “Google autocomplete and personal integrity”
Excellent move by the German court. Auto-complete and search suggestion creates a self-amplifying positive feedback loop for the search autocomplete suggestion that shows up first.