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InfoLawUpdate - Google Starts its Purge after the “Right to be Forgotten” Judgment

InfoLawUpdate - Google Starts its Purge after the “Right to be Forgotten” Judgment

Burnetts' information law solicitor Natalie Ruane examines the Google "right to be forgotten" judgment.

There was a judgment last month from Europe about the “right to be forgotten” where an individual can get “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” results removed from Google search.  It was put into place after a Spanish citizen complained that searches for his name brought up a 1998 announcement that his house was being sold to cover social security debts.  Now the Guardian, the BBC and others are reporting that it is being used to cover up embarrassing news stories. 

The Guardian were notified by Google that six articles were being purged from Google’s European search engine.  The BBC has also been notified that an article entitled “Merrill’s mess” about departed Merrill Lynch Stan O’Neal, was also being removed. 

Apparently Google has received over 50,000 requests so far to take down articles from Google search about individuals.  The judgment, in fact, provides an exception in cases where there are “particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, justifying a preponderant interest of the public in having access to the information”.  Some commentators consider that, by deliberately removing legitimate news stories, Google is trying to prove a point about just how bad the ruling could actually be in its interpretation.

The Information Commissioner's Office and its European counterpart on the Article 29 Working Party are considering this issue and are currently working on guidelines to help data protection authorities deal with complaints about the removal or non-removal of personal information from search engine results.  The aim is to ensure a consistent approach by data protection authorities across Europe when individuals complain that a takedown request has been refused.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Wednesday 9th July 2014
Categorised: Information Law

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