Google told to clean up auto-complete in Germany

Court says search engine giant must remove defamatory suggestions when told about them

 

Google has been told it must clean up the auto-complete suggestions that appear on its search engine.

A German federal court issued the ruling.

The court said that Google must ensure that suggestions generated by its auto-complete feature did not include offensive or defamatory content.

Google has hit back at similar rulings and requests in the past.

It has said that the auto-complete suggestions merely represent the terms searched for most frequently by users in a respective country.

The latest ruling relates to a court case started by an unnamed German businessman.

He lodged the case after finding that Google.de's auto-complete suggestions linked his name with scientology and fraud.

The court said in a statement that a person's privacy would be violated if terms associated with their name on Google's auto-complete service were untrue.

The ruling means that Google is now legally obliged to remove the terms.

However, the court stopped short of ordering Google to clean up every auto-complete.

Instead, Google is only required to take action when it is informed of defamatory word combinations.

"The operator is, as a basic principle, only responsible when it gets notice of the unlawful violation of personal rights," the court said.

The ruling overturns two earlier decisions by lower German courts.

Speaking to Bloomberg, a spokesman for Google said that it was "disappointed and surprised" by the court's decision.

He said that it was "incomprehensible" that the ruling essentially held the company responsible for searches carried out by users.

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