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Google Suspends Trends Emails In New Zealand

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Google suspended an email alerting system in New Zealand after the search giant was criticized for breaching a court order by publishing suppressed details of a high-profile murder case.

Last December, Google appeared to violate the suppression order by emailing the name of the man accused of killing British backpacker, Grace Millane, to its subscribers of "what's trending in New Zealand" email. In spite of the New Zealand government's request, the company did not accede to tighten its publication standards.

Millane, a 22-year-old British tourist, was last seen alive in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, on December 1, 2018.

Her body was later found by police just a few meters from a scenic drive in Auckland's Waitakere range and a New Zealand man was charged with her murder. In January this year, the accused man pleaded not guilty in a New Zealand court and his name was suppressed by the court.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had expressed disappointment about Google's failure to abide by the court order.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said earlier this week that the issue remained unresolved despite assurances from Google in meetings with government officials.

Little had urged Google to not be "evil" and to do the right thing to prevent more breaches. He was referring to the tech giant's former motto, "don't be evil".

On Friday, Google said in a letter to Little's office that it respected New Zealand law and has taken steps to prevent any further recurrence of the issue.

The company said that upon being made aware of the issue, it took action and prevented the accused's name from being included in future Trends Alert emails in New Zealand.

"In light of the concerns you expressed this week, Google has also suspended Google trends email about searches trending in New Zealand. This means that people will no longer receive emails on any trending searches for New Zealand and provides even further assurance against any recurrence," the search giant said in the letter.

Little said he welcomed Google's "responsible" change of policy.

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