Google has been ordered to remove a number of links from its search index after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled that the company is in breach of the Data Protection Act for failing to do so.
The case relates to a request from an unnamed individual asking for a number of links relating to a spent conviction to be removed from the index after claiming they were having an adverse effect on their private life.
Google did remove these links but, as part of the media coverage of the takedown of such links, nine new search results are now returned when searching the person’s name that relate to the conviction.
The complainant asked Google to remove these links from its index too, claiming that they were causing the same problems. However, this time Google refused to remove the links, arguing that it is in the public interest to know about the removal.
However, the ICO has ruled that there is no such right as the conviction was minor and served over 10 years ago and that the public interest in the takedown was minor. The ICO has given Google 35 days to comply with the order and remove the links.
ICO deputy commissioner David Smith explained that Google needs to follow the letter of the law more closely, as laid out by the European Commission last year.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Smith added that people need to be able to protect their privacy, even if that makes finding information online more difficult.
“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 said.
V3 contacted Google for comment on the ruling but had received no reply at the time of publication.
The case is the first time that the ICO has weighed in on a matter relating to the Right to be Forgotten.
It comes as Google looks to push back against data regulators on the subject, after saying at the end of July that the company would not comply with a request from the French data watchdog to apply the Right to be Forgotten to its global search index.
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