Google has apologised to Justice Minister Andrew Little and has suspended its system that unintentionally broke name suppression rules in the Grace Millane murder trial.

Google's NZ government affairs manager Ross Young had written to Little on Tuesday saying that the Millane case was unique and not outlining any changes that Google wished to make.

Little interpreted this as Google "flipping the bird" at New Zealand laws after months of consultation and meetings with Ministers, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, about how Google would address the issue.

A 27-year-old Auckland man with name suppression has been charged with murdering Millane, and last December, Google emailed the accused's name to anyone signed up to its "what's trending in New Zealand" email.


Today Young wrote back to Little apologising "for the miscommunication on Tuesday" and saying that Little's statements that day had prompted Google to suspend its Google Trends emails for New Zealand subscribers.

"In light of the concerns you expressed this week, Google has suspended Google Trends emails 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."

Little welcomed "this responsible approach" by Google.

"Work on how suppression orders will be upheld in the digital age will continue. I look forward to constructive engagement with Google and other multinational tech corporations on long term solutions."

Young's letter said that fewer than 200 New Zealand subscribers had received the email with the accused's name in December, and that Google immediately acted to take the person's name out of future Trends Alert emails.

He said that Google provided law enforcement agencies with confidential forms to inform Google about suppression orders, but this did not happen in the Millane case until four days after the order was handed down.

Google would meet with agencies so Google be told about orders as soon as they are made.


Little had asked Google for an explanation when he met Google executives at the Beehive in December in the days after the name suppression order had been broken.

Google executives also gave Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assurances that the matter would be looked at when they met in Europe in January, and Ministry of Justice officials followed up with Google in March and again this week.

Little has previously said that the integrity of fair trial rights cannot be left to "algorithms and machines".

"This might be the way of the world and modern technology, but the reality is that we cannot surrender the effective administration of justice to algorithms and machines and say, 'Well, that's it, it's all over for fair trial rights.'

"We cannot allow that to happen."

He has also chastised British media for naming the accused.