Japan recognises ‘right to be forgotten’ of man convicted of child sex offences

Court orders Google to hide news reports of Japanese man saying criminals are entitled to have their private lives ‘respected and rehabilitation unhindered’

A court in Tokyo has ordered Google to remove search results to protect a convicted man’s right to privacy. Photograph: Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis

Japan has taken another step towards recognising “the right to be forgotten” of individuals online after a court ordered Google to remove news reports about the arrest of a man who, according to the judge, deserved the chance to rebuild his life “unhindered” by records of his criminal past.

While Japanese courts have demanded the removal of information strictly for privacy reasons, the recent ruling by Saitama district court is the first in the country to cite the right to be forgotten – something that has been enshrined in law in the European Union – in demanding the removal of personal information online, according to legal experts.

The decision in December, which was only revealed in recently unearthed court documents, is expected to ignite a debate in Japan over whether authorities can reconcile an individual’s right to have expunged details of, say, a crime committed in the distant past with freedom of information and the public’s right to know.

In handing down the ruling the judge, Hisaki Kobayashi, said that, depending on the nature of the crime, individuals should be able to undergo rehabilitation with a clean online sheet after a certain period of time has elapsed.

“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, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Kobayashi added that it was difficult to live a normal life “once information is posted and shared on the internet, which should be considered when determining whether (the information) should be deleted”.

The man, who has not been named, had demanded that Google remove reports posted online more than three years ago detailing his arrest and conviction for breaking child prostitution and pornography laws, for which he was fined 500,000 yen (£3,165). He complained that the case appeared whenever his name and address were entered into Google search.

Google has appealed against the decision in the high court, although media reports say that the man’s criminal record no longer appears in its search results.

The Saitama case is not the only ruling to suggest that Japan is following the lead set by the EU, where residents can request the removal of search results that they feel link to outdated or irrelevant information about themselves on a country-by-country basis.

In November, a court in Tokyo became the first in Japan to issue a temporary injunction ordering Google to delete search results relating to the arrest of a dentist who had been arrested for illegal dental practices.

A month earlier, the same court issued an injunction ordering Google to remove search results that revealed the identity of a man who complained that articles implicating him in past criminal activity were violating his right to privacy and harming his reputation.

Yahoo Japan, meanwhile, said last year it would comply with requests to remove information from search results if they included an individual’s address or telephone number, or referred to minor crimes committed years earlier.

Google has been resisting attempts to widen the application of the right to be forgotten since the EU’s court of justice ruled in May 2014 that Google must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when a member of the public requests it.

That decision came after a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, took Google Spain to court after he failed to secure the deletion of his debt records dating back to the late 1990s.

[Source:- Thr Gurdian]