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Google censors Trends feature in New Zealand after complaints from government

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After a Google Trend email alert system had breached a New Zealand court order, Google has suspended a Trend feature in the country.

Google’s problem with the Trends alert system happened last December when the automated alert system named the man accused of killing 22-year-old Grace Millane. The victim was a British backpacker traveling in New Zealand.

The victim’s killer was given a temporary name suppression by the New Zealand court. Google’s Trend alerts, though, did the opposite and put the killer’s name in the subject line of an email. This email was then sent to thousands of users.

After the email was sent out, Google immediately apologized for the error. However, it did not do anything to change how the Trend alert system works.

According to Google’s government affairs manager, there is no need for the change because the incident was a rare occurrence that involves a person overseas, and was extensively reported by overseas media.

Unfortunately for Google, New Zealand politicians were not happy and reacted strongly to Google’s statement.

New Zealand justice minister Andrew Little accused Google of “flipping the bird” at the country’s legal system. “Google’s contempt for New Zealand law, and for Grace Millane’s family is unacceptable, and I will now be considering my options,” he said.

He also said that Google’s contempt for New Zealand law and for the victim’s family is unacceptable and Google should not be allowed to get away with what its Trends email alert system has done.

This prompted Google to finally shut down Trends.

The company also sent an email to Little’s office supporting the fact that the suspected killer has the right to a fair trial as part of New Zealand’s legal system. As he welcomes Google’s decision to temporarily suspend the Trends alert system, the justice minister also said that the government will continue working on how suppression orders will be upheld in the digital age.

This incident is the latest example showing how US tech companies such as Google and Facebook are having a hard time creating global products without violating local laws in various countries.

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