Sep 132015
 September 13, 2015  Non-U.S., Online

Elaine Edwards reports:

Google has refused to remove search results that show the names of newly naturalised Irish citizens in the State’s official gazette, because of the Government’s “ongoing choice” to make the information public.

Concerns were expressed by a migrant rights body and by digital rights campaigners recently when it emerged the details of thousands of citizens, including their full addresses and whether they are minors or adults, are being published on Iris Oifigiúil.

Read more on Irish Times.

I think Google has a strong case here, since the government is knowingly/intentionally publishing the data lawfully, and hasn’t sought to block indexing via robots.txt. So why shouldn’t Google index it?

Then again, when the law was passed in the 1950s that requires publication, did anyone anticipate the Internet or Google search results? Maybe it’s time for the government to re-think what they were trying to accomplish back then and whether they can achieve that goal without indexing in Google. In any event, I see this one as being on the government, not Google.

Update: Daragh O’Brien points out that it is not the 1956 act that authorizes publication, and since neither that act nor 2011 SI explain any necessity for it. Daragh blogged about this whole issue last month, here. Daragh’s comments reinforce my sense that this is not Google’s fault or responsibility, and is on the government to address.

  2 Responses to “Google refuses to remove results with new citizens’ names”

  1. Wrote this when the story first broke

    Question hinges on necessity and proportionality of publishing names and home addresses of all naturalized citizens, with minors broken out separately, for a purpose which is not actually defined in the 1956 legislation, which just says that something will be published.

    The 2011 secondary legislation sets out the data to be published.

    The site in question now has robots.txt enabled. But search results are still cached. Which raises a question: If the govt has pulled up the drawbridge due to an error on their part, surely Google’s argument falls.

    • Let’s see what happens when Google goes to index the site again. The cache should clear. I wonder if the govt even notified Google that it had changed robots.txt and if it asked for a prompt reindexing.

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