April 20, 2018

Google has Lost a Landmark Right

14 April 2018, 05:40 | Brandon Parsons

Two businessmen believe their names should not be linked to past

Judge to give ruling on Google ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ case

Mr Justice Warby said the businessmen complained of Google search engine results that provided links to third-party reports about their convictions.

The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications.

Google has been generally reluctant to honor European Union "right to be forgotten" requests when people try to hide their past convictions, but it a new ruling, the company may have a hard time not honoring some future requests.

The businessman, who can not be named due to reporting restrictions, was convicted over a decade ago for conspiring to intercept communications.

The ruling judge, Justice Mark Warby, ruled in the petitioner's favor on Friday, and ordered Google to remove the relevant search results. He served a six-month prison sentence.

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Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added: "It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that".

The right to be forgotten is an online privacy statute passed in 2014 by the European Court of Justice that states that European citizens may petition search engines to delist URLs from search results if the websites in question contain information that is deemed irrelevant or outdated to be readily available. Weighing such factors in a Right to be Forgotten case in such a manner seems to be potentially precedent setting, and could have significant implications for other convicted criminals in Europe who seek to have stories about their misdeeds erased from search results.

Warby said NT1 had continued to mislead "the public and this court", and had shown "no remorse over any of these matters". In those circumstances, "the public interest in having information with his name about this case doesn't prevail".

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns to promote digital freedom, said: "The right to be forgotten is meant to apply to information that is no longer relevant but disproportionately impacts a person". "We are pleased that the Court recognized our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgements they have made in this case". Others, however, expressed concern that the ruling could harm free press and speech rights. The tech company says it has removed more than 800,000 pages so far.

Google contested the two claims, which were heard in separate High Court trials in London.

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