Google apologises to Andrew Little over botched name suppression

Google has apologised to Justice Minister Andrew Little and suspended the part of its system that allowed the name of a man accused of murder to be widely circulated.

In December Google published the name of the accused murderer in a Google trends email breaching a suppression order. Google says fewer than 200 New Zealanders got that email.

On Friday, Google apologised for miscommunication around its response and has immediately suspended some elements of the subscriber news service "Google Trends" in New Zealand.

That means that people will no longer receive emails on any trending searches for New Zealand.

Little praised the move by the media giant but says further work needs to be done to ensure justice is carried out fairly in the digital age.

"Today Google reached out with an apology and acknowledgement that fair trial rights need to be protected," Little said in a statement.

"Work on how suppression orders will be upheld in the digital age will continue. I look forward to constructive engagement with Google and other multinational tech corporations on long term solutions."

In a direct letter to Little, Google representative Ross Young apologised and outlined the company’s latest step towards preventing a repeat of the situation which saw the name of the person accused of murdering Grace Millane published.

“I want to apologise for the miscommunication on Tuesday. I did not mean to convey that Google does not take this issue seriously.

“In light of the concerns you expressed this week, Google has… suspended Google Trends emails about searches trending in New Zealand.”

On Wednesday Little delivered a stinging message to Google - "Don't be evil" - after the tech giant said the publication of the name - seven months ago - was the result of a "relatively unique" situation.

"There are some things that are pretty important to our justice system, and making sure people get treated fairly whether as a defendant or for that matter as a victim is absolutely crucial," he said in a Twitter video on Wednesday night.

"We've had a situation where, in a very important trial - the Grace Millane case - a newspaper, helped by Google, has published information that the judge said was suppressed.



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