A year on from my last blog post on the subject the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has made what appears to be its first right to be forgotten enforcement action against Google Inc. The right to be forgotten ruling allows Europeans to apply to remove information about them from search engine listings which is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.
The ICO issued a notice on 18 August ordering Google to remove nine links to new stories about an individual’s offence committed almost a decade ago. Google, which has an approximate 90% market share of internet searches in Europe, had previously removed links relating to the offence after requests made under the right to be forgotten ruling. However removal of those links from Google’s search results for the individual’s name spurred new news posts detailing the removals, which were then indexed by Google’s search engine and thus creating something of a vicious circle.
Google refused to remove links to these later news posts, which included details of the original criminal offence, despite them forming part of search results for the claimant’s name, arguing that they are an essential part of a recent news story and in the public interest.
The ICO deputy commissioner said: “The European court ruling last year was clear that links prompted by searching on an individual’s name are subject to data protection rules. That means they shouldn’t include personal information that is no longer relevant.”
Google now has until 22nd September to remove the links from its search results for the claimant’s name. Google has the right to appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber against the ICO’s notice.
The right to be forgotten ruling has been criticised for being “unworkable and wrong” and for stifling free speech. Just today the Telegraph published a long list of the newspaper’s online content which has been removed from Google search results as a result of the ruling.