Thursday, June 13, 2013

German Court Rules: Autocomplete of Google Searches Can Be Illegal

The founder of a public company sued Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) since googling the name of his company offered autocomplete searches that connected the company’s name with "Scientology" and "Fraud".

According to the plaintiff, these autocompletes were baseless. Furthermore, they infringe on personal rights as well as corporate image.

The GermanFederal Court of Justice agreed and ruled that Google’s autocomplete function sometimes present suggestions that are considered to be a breach of law. With this ruling, the court overturned the verdict of the District Court of Cologne.

The ruling could help former First Lady Bettina Wulff with her lawsuit against Google. When her name is googled, Google’s autocomplete function offers additions such as "red light district" and "escort." Needless to say, the lady is not amused.
The ruling does not imply that Google is liable for each and every autocomplete. Owners of search engines “Are not obligated to check the legality of autocomplete searched proactively for liability”. Only when a victim reports infringement must the search engine owner take action.

Google spokesperson Kay Oberbeck explained that the autocomplete suggestions are generated by users searching Google, not by Google itself.

According to German lawyers, Google’s autocomplete function could go two ways: (1) the autocomplete function will be completely deactivated in Germany, or (2) users will be automatically able to remove autocomplete suggestions.

One thing is clear, Google has to react quickly!

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