Email alerts from Google Trends can be a handy way to keep up with a specific topic on the web, but sometimes it can have unintended consequences. This week Google has suspended the Trends email alert service in New Zealand after it inadvertently breached a court order regarding a murder case.
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Shortly after the case was opened in December 2018, Google Trends emails with top search terms in the country named the suspect in the investigation and sent that information to thousands of users. That breached a court order around the investigation that demanded that Google suppress the names while the case was ongoing. Google admitted that it was a mistake, but took no further action at the time.
Reuters reports that this week, Google decided to pull the plug, at least temporarily, on the service in New Zealand. This comes after an exchange between Google and New Zealand justice minister Andrew Little earlier this week where Google called this case “relatively unique” and still refused to make changes. Little said that Google appeared to be “flipping the bird” at the country’s suppression law, saying that the company’s response was “disappointing.”
To comply with the country’s laws, a Google spokesperson confirmed that Google Trends emails regarding top searches in New Zealand have been suspended. Google stated:
We understand the sensitivity around this issue and we have suspended Google Trends emails about searches trending in New Zealand.
Little responded that he “welcomed” Google’s decision. The murder case in question regards Grace Milane, a 22-year-old backpacker who was killed in the country in late 2018.
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