Japan has taken steps towards recognising ‘the right to be forgotten’ for individuals online, after a court ordered Google to remove news reports a man who the judge believes must have the chance to rebuild his life ‘unhindered’ by records of his criminal past.
In the past Japanese courts have asked for the removal of information online over privacy concerns, however the ruling by the Saitama district court is the first to cite the right to be forgotten, something which has been enshrined in law in the European Union, The Guardian reports.
The decision was made in December, and was only recently revealed in unearthed court documents, and is expected to ignite a national debate in Japan over whether authorities can balance an individual’s right to have details of their crimes expunged with freedom of information and the public’s right to know.
Hisaki Kobayashi, the judge who handled the ruling 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.
He went on to add 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, is demanding that Google remove reports online from more than three years ago detailing his arrest and conviction for breaking child prostitution and pornography laws, a sentence for which he was fined 500,000 yen (£3,165). He complains that the case appeared whenever his name and address were entered into Google search.
Google is appealing against the decision in the high court, although local media reports claim 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to suggest that Japan is following the EU’s lead, where residents can request the deletion of information they feel is outdated or irrelevant about themselves on a country-by-country basis.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.
Google has been trying to resist attempts to widen ‘the right to be forgotten’ ever 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.