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July 9, 2014

‘Right to be forgotten’ EU

Simon Wadsworth explores the claim by the Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Simon Hughes, that there is ‘no right to be forgotten’.

The Daily Telegraph today reported that the UK Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Simon Hughes, will announce that “there is no such thing as Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’” in an address to peers.

The Liberal Democrat, who has been a Member of Parliament since 1983, is expected to tell a House of Lords committee that people should not “assume that they have the right to remove material about themselves from the Internet.”

The ‘right to be forgotten’ EU ruling was passed by the European Court of Justice last month, after Mario Costeja González brought a case against Google Spain. The Spaniard won the right for links to old, and no longer relevant, information about him featured on the Internet to be removed.

The new ruling allows individuals to request the removal of links to online content that may breach their privacy rights. It has led to a massive influx of individuals contacting Google, either direct or via organisations specialising in online reputation management, asking for content to be removed. It is reputed that Google has already had more than 700,000 requests. Google has developed a ‘right to be forgotten’ online search removal request for the deletion of search results.

Critics claim the ruling infringes on free speech. The Daily Telegraph reports that Simon Hughes, in his address, will “emphasise that the government wants to balance maintain people’s right to privacy while protecting freedom of speech.” It is not yet clear on what grounds Google is granting requests. However if the information is aged and no longer relevant, and therefore not deemed in the public interest, it is more likely to meet the online search removal criteria.

The first ‘right to be forgotten’ applications made by Igniyte, my online reputation management company, were on behalf of our existing customers – the majority of whom are high profile individuals. All requests were turned down by Google on the grounds that the information was in the public interest and therefore should remain online.

We are still waiting to hear how successful our more recent applications will be. It is anticipated that the latest tranche of requests, submitted by Igniyte, are more likely to be granted. This is largely because the requests have been made on behalf of individuals who are not in the public eye.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) whose mission is “to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals” is likely to become more involved as the fallout from the ruling continues. Only yesterday, The Guardian, reported that although the ICO had not as yet received any complaints, it did expect “to receive complaints “soon” from people who have had requests to remove personal details from Google’s index of links turned down.”

It is possible that Google will eventually to go down the route of publishing details of ‘right to be forgotten’ search removal requests online. If this happens, further questions will no doubt be raised over whether this already controversial ruling, is indeed itself in the interests of the general public.

If you believe the right to be forgotten ruling applies to you and would like to find out how Igniyte can help you submit a removal request to Google please contact me for further information.

 

 

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