Google ordered to remove search results in major Information Commissioner's Office ruling

The links, which refer to an earlier link-removal case, have to be removed within 35 days

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The Independent Online

Google has been ordered to remove nine links to news articles that were published detailing a previous request to remove links about an individual convicted of a criminal offence 10 years ago.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ruled that the personal data was "no longer relevant".

The ruling is related to nine links that appear when the name of the unidentified person is Googled.

The results link to pages that detail a minor criminal offence that the person committed over 10 years ago.

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The 'right to be forgotten' allows people to request that Google removes links to information about them

Google had previously removed similar links relating to this offence after the person made a 'right to be forgotten' request, a relatively new concept in law that relates to a person being stigmatised due to actions they performed in the past being preserved online.

However, the removal of these original links became a news story in itself - these new stories also mentioned details of the crimes, and again cropped up when the person's name was Googled.

Google refused the request to take down these newer links, claiming the articles were an important part of a recent news story that related to a matter of public importance.

In a landmark decision, the ICO recognised that articles that related to Google's decision to delist certain search results may well be newsworthy and in the public interest.

 

However, they also ruled that these factors do not justify the inclusion of links to those articles when the person's name is Googled, saying this has an unwarranted and negative impact on the person's privacy, and is a breach of the Data protection act.

Deputy Commissioner David Smith 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 was right, in its original decision, to accept that search results relating to the complainant’s historic conviction were no longer relevant and were having a negative impact on privacy. It is wrong of them to now refuse to remove newer links that reveal the same details and have the same negative impact.”

Mr Smith continued: “Let’s be clear. We understand that links being removed as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write about. And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories through search engines like Google. But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant’s name.”

An enforcement notice has been issued by the ICO, meaning the offending links will have to be removed from Google's search results within 35 days.

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