December 13, 2018: 11:14am CST
Google illegally revealed the name of a murder suspect via a mass email sent out to subscribers of their top trends in New Zealand. A temporary suppression order was in place until the suspect went to trial for the murder of Grace Millane, a backpacker from the UK. She was found about 10 days later after she went missing from a Hostel in New Zealand.
According to The Sun, “Google could be prosecuted after publishing the name of the man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand.” “The message included the man’s name which Justice Minister Andrew Little believes violates the suppression order…Google has denied knowing about the court order.
According to reports, if the email that was sent out can be traced back to any of Google’s infrastructure, Google could be prosecuted under New Zealand law, as they violated the terms of the court order. They have acted in contempt of court.
It is my understanding (I may be wrong, though), that even if this was an automated email that was sent out, Google employees are ultimately responsible for the information that they publish. Especially if the information published was in violation of a court order.
Google has denied knowing about the court order–but ignorance of the law or the court order should not be any excuse for obstructing justice, in my opinion.
In a statement, Google said that “When we receive valid court orders, including suppression orders, we review and respond appropriately.” But this goes beyond that. What I think Google is saying here, and what their policy has been, is that they publish information and then, after the fact, when they receive a court order, they respond to that court order and remove the information from their search results or from their database, essentially.
Google’s current policy is that Google publishes the information first and then they remove the information when presented with a court order.
But in this case, it’s different. The court order was in place so that the name of the murder suspect would NOT be revealed. Google had a responsibility, in my opinion, NOT to reveal the information. Once the name of the murder suspect was out there, then the name is out there in the public, and no court order will change that. Even if Google removed the name after the fact, which is Google’s policy, the harm was done, and the name was out there in the public.
I don’t know if this is going to change Google’s policies. But I do think, as an entity that publishes information publicly, Google has a responsibility to KNOW about court orders such as this an they must comply if it’s the law.