Asia-Pacific News

New Zealand criticizes Google for revealing identity of backpacker murder suspect

Key Points
  • Google representatives will meet with New Zealand’s Justice Minister on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday the company published the name of the man suspected of murdering British woman Grace Millane.
  • New Zealand law had dictated that media outlets could not name the suspect.
Google search on iphone
Artur Debat | Getty Images

Google will meet with New Zealand's Justice Minister on Tuesday, after he lashed out at the search engine platform said the tech giant could be prosecuted for naming the suspect in backpacker Grace Millane's murder.

Internet users in the country searched the suspect's name more than 100,000 times after a Google trending alert revealing his identity was sent to subscribers, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The 26-year-old man accused of murdering the British backpacker had applied for name suppression in compliance with New Zealand law. His lawyer said he would appeal to the High Court when this request was rejected, triggering a 20-working-day suppression order.

New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little told the Herald on Thursday that the source who leaked the name would be prosecuted if police were willing to launch an investigation.

He reportedly said he would tell Google representatives that "we cannot surrender the administration of justice to algorithms and machines," and that he did not believe the U.S. firm's claims that it didn't know the name was suppressed.

A Google spokesperson told CNBC via email: "We respect New Zealand law and understand the concerns around what is clearly a sensitive case. When we receive valid court orders, including suppression orders, we review and respond appropriately."

The New Zealand government will decide on the next course of action on this matter after their meeting on Tuesday.

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