Google Inc. has been ordered to remove nine search results after the ICO ruled that they linked to information about a person that was no longer relevant.
Of note, this relates to a case where Google had agreed to delist original search results, but then refused to delist search results to media sites that reported on their delisting of the results. Those media sites, within the context of their reporting, named the individual and gave the background on the case.
Although the ICO recognized that the articles had journalistic content that was newsworthy, it was not necessary, in the ICO’s determination, that the individual be named and an old conviction brought up.
The ICO’s press release on the enforcement action follows:
Google Inc has been ordered to remove nine search results after the ICO ruled that they linked to information about a person that was no longer relevant.
The ICO ruling concerns nine links that are part of the list of results displayed when a search is made by entering the individual’s name.
The links are to web pages that include details of a minor criminal offence committed by the individual almost ten years ago.
The search engine had previously removed links relating to the criminal offence following a request from the individual.
The removal of those links then itself became a news story. Links to these later news stories, which repeated details of the original criminal offence, were then part of the results displayed when searching for the complainant’s name on Google.
Google Inc refused the complainant’s request for these later links to be removed from search results. It argued these links were to articles that concerned one of its decisions to delist a search result and that the articles were an essential part of a recent news story relating to a matter of significant public importance.
The ICO ruling recognises that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest. But it confirms that this does not justify including links to that content when a Google search is made by entering the affected individual’s name, as this has an unwarranted and negative impact on the individual’s privacy and is a breach of the Data Protection Act.
Deputy Commissioner David Smith said: “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.
“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.”
“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.”
The ICO has issued an enforcement notice requiring the links to be removed from the search results within 35 days.