Google halts ‘Trends’ email alerts in New Zealand after leaking name of murder suspect

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Tech giant Google is suspending its ‘trending’ alert service in New Zealand after being heavily criticized for publishing the name of the suspect in the high-profile murder of a young British backpacker.

Last December, Google’s automated alerts service sent the name of the man accused of killing 22-year-old Grace Millane in the subject line of an email to thousands of users. The name had been suppressed by the courts in order to help assure a fair trial.

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After going missing on December 1, while traveling after finishing university, police found Millane’s body in a bush area in the northern half of the island. The shocking murder made headlines across New Zealand.

Various government officials, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, expressed anger over the situation. Justice Minister Andrew Little said that the company had shown contempt for the country’s laws, and the victim’s family.

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A Google spokeswoman responded on Friday, announcing that the company would be halting the email notification system where the name was leaked.

We understand the sensitivity around this issue and we have suspended Google Trends emails about searches trending in New Zealand.

The decision comes at a time when tech and social media companies are under increasing pressure to take better account of local laws. The issue is particularly fresh in New Zealand, where Google, YouTube, and Facebook faced a backlash after failing to squelch re-uploads of the Christchurch mosque shooting.

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