It’s well known that auto-complete and auto-correct can be either a technological blessing or curse. There’s even an entire website dedicated towards displaying the most humorous instances of the latter. Google’s auto-complete feature, however, has one Virginia man in a not-quite-so-funny legal situation.
Jeffrey Kantor, a former government contractor, claims that an innocuous Google search led to his dismissal from his job and unnecessary harassment from the federal government. Kantor claims that his search for “How do I build a radio controlled airplane” was corrected by the search engine to “How do I build a radio controlled bomb.”
He was subsequently fired by Appian Corporation for reasons involving the search, and he has since sued “a host of government officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry in Federal Court, alleging civil rights violations, disclosure of private information and retaliation,” Court House News reports.
Kantor’s complaint explains that he initially searched for how to build a radio-controlled airplane in order to purchase a birthday present for his son.
“In October of 2009, Kantor used the search engine Google to try to find, ‘How do I build a radio-controlled airplane,’” the complaint reads. “He ran this search a couple weeks before the birthday of his son with the thought of building one together as a birthday present. After typing ‘how do I build a radio controlled’, Google auto-completed his search to, ‘how do I build a radio controlled bomb.’”
Kantor claims that this search prompted a government inquiry into his personal life and his personal information, including monitoring of his web activity and emails. He also claims that the government harassed him and threatened him, ultimately forcing him out of his job with Appian.
Kantor is seeking “$13.8 million in compensatory damages and $45 million in punitive damages, as well as an injunction ordering the government to stop stalking him,” according to Court House News.
The case is timely considering the recent developments regarding the NSA’s data-monitoring and spying on individuals throughout the world. Although Kantor’s case is huge and the lawsuits against particular individuals that were likely not directly involved are going to be difficult to argue, his situation still demonstrates a growing resentment with the spying tactics of the federal government.