In the Media

IBA 2014: Right to be forgotten takes root in Japan

PUBLISHED October 23, 2014

A Tokyo court has ordered internet giant Google to remove search links to a Japanese man's criminal record in one of the first 'right to be forgotten' cases outside Europe since the landmark European Court of Justice decision in Google Spain earlier this year. 

Yoshiyuki Miyashita, attorney with Tokyo firm Nishimura & Asahi, revealed at the International Bar Association conference in Tokyo today that the Tokyo District Court had relied on existing privacy law in a case involving a former convict named Seki. 

The decision adds a further dimension to a global clash of cultures over internet jurisdiction, with US constitutional first amendment rights conflicting with growing demands for privacy, particularly in Europe. Bryan Schilling (pictured), in-house attorney at Google, said that moves to regulate for internet privacy 'put us at odds with a number of jurisdictions'.

The conference heard that Google has received more than 100,000 requests to remove links to material on 400,000 web addresses. The company recognises requests only when they originate in the EU, regardless of the nationality of the requester. They apply only to links from Google's EU websites. 

A session on the Google Spain judgment, held under the Chatham House rule, heard widely diverging opinions on the right to be forgotten. One member of the audience said that the public interest was served by people having the right to start their lives again following court convictions. Another said that ruling would have aided a 20-year cover-up of child sexual offences. 

However, a strong consensus emerged that the European court ruling lacks clarity - and that US-based web companies are the wrong organisations to try to enforce it.

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