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August 20, 2015

ICO demands Google remove ‘right to be forgotten’ news stories

Data regulator says results relating to ‘minor criminal offence’ are irrelevant.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Google was ordered to remove search results for several news stories covering a "right to be forgotten" decision, after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decided they were "no longer relevant" to a search inquiry of a person’s name.

Following the landmark ruling known as "the right to be forgotten", which gave European citizens the right to request Google delist search results for their name, a complainant applied to the search engine to have some links delisted.

After reviewing the case, which involved what the ICO called a "minor criminal offence" committed almost ten years ago, Google decided to delist some links that appeared when the complainant’s name was searched.

As one of the early results of the landmark ruling the story generated more media attention, which led to further articles being written repeating details of the complainant’s crime, prompting the person to request a further nine links be removed.

This time Google decided against the complainant, arguing that the articles were part of a recent news story and therefore in the public interest.

In line with EU law the ICO decided that whilst the news story might be newsworthy and in the public interest the rights of the complainant are being breached under the Data Protection Act, and the links must be removed within 35 days when the complainant’s name is searched.

"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," said David Smith, deputy commissioner of the ICO.

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"But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant’s name."

Since the ruling in May 2014 the right to be forgotten has proved highly controversial, particularly in the UK, where Fleet Street newspapers were highly critical of the decision.

Websites like the BBC and the Telegraph even maintain a list of links that have been delisted, media groups being notified by Google whenever a delisting occurs.

The EU has also failed to force Google to apply its rulings to the American .com website, meaning that anyone can bypass the censorship by searching the .com domain as opposed to its European counterpart.

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