The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ordered Google to stop linking to nine news stories under the right to be forgotten. The articles in question contain the name of a man behind an earlier successful right to be forgotten request.
Google's early practice of telling publishers when it delists links to their stories has come back to bite it in a dispute over search results for stories that describe the removal.
According to the ICO, Google agreed to a person's request to stop returning links about the individual's conviction for a minor criminal offence 10 years ago. However, Google then denied the same person's request to delist subsequent stories referencing the complainant's right to be forgotten request and the conviction it involved. Google had argued the results were relevant and a matter of significant public importance.
A decision handed down by the European Court of Justice last May allowed European residents to request particular links no longer be returned in searches for their names if they involve information that's out of date, excessive, or irrelevant.
The ICO yesterday gave Google 35 days from August 18 to comply with its order to remove the links that appear upon searching for the person's name.
"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," said ICO deputy commissioner David Smith.
"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," he added.
In making the decision, the ICO had considered several factors including questions about public life, sensitive personal data, passage of time, prejudice, journalistic context, and the criminal offence.
"The Commissioner does not dispute that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest," the ICO said in its decision. "However, that interest can be adequately and properly met without a search made on the basis of the complainant's name providing links to articles which reveal information about the complainant's spent conviction."
Google declined to comment.
As The Guardian noted, in June the BBC and The Telegraph detailed when stories from their respective websites had been delisted under the right to be forgotten.
The ICO earlier this year said that Google got nearly 50 right to be forgotten decisions wrong.
Google earlier this year accidentally revealed via its transparency report that more than 95 percent of requests it had received came from ordinary members of the public as opposed to criminals, and public figures like politicians.
As of July, the company had been asked to remove one million links and has agreed to remove almost 60 percent of them.
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