Businessman wins his ‘right to be forgotten’ from Google in UK court
The right to be forgotten (RTBF) is an online privacy statute that the European Court of Justice passed in 2014. It states that European citizens can petition search engine companies like Google to delist URLs from search results if the websites contain information that is inaccurate, irrelevant, and not in the public interest to keep available.
Of course, determining what is “irrelevant” for an individual versus what is in the public interest to keep accessible is the challenge of enforcing the right to be forgotten. The petitions of two businessmen*, on whose lawsuits the UK court both ruled on Friday, exemplify the balancing act making RTBF decisions requires.
“We work hard to comply with the Right to be Forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful information,” a Google spokesperson told Mashable via email. “We are pleased that the Court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgements they have made in this case.”
The businessman who won his suit against Google was reportedly convicted 10 years ago for “conspiring to intercept communications.” He served six months in jail. He had petitioned Google to remove news reports and other information about the crime, which Google initially rejected.
A second businessman had petitioned Google to remove search results about a crime for which he served four years in jail. The crime was “conspiring to account falsely,” which essentially means monetary or informational fraud for financial gain. The same judge who ruled in favor of the first businessman sided with Google’s judgement on this one, and search results that feature the businessman’s crime will remain listed.
The Guardian reports that the Judge accepted the former petition because the crime was less serious, and because the individual had reformed and shown remorse. The judge said that the latter claimant, who lost to Google, had continued to deceive the public, so it was in the public’s best interest to keep information about his past misdeeds available. Public interest
In a February 2018 transparency report, Google said that from 2014-2017, it received delisting requests under the RTBF for over 2.4 million URLs. It accepted 43 percent of those requests.
It’s important to remember that Google doesn’t have any skin in the game in the criminal cases of these individuals. What Google is really defending is its decision making process.
Court hearings like these are about further defining that blurry line between individual privacy and public interest in RTBF petitions. This judge’s ruling shows that citizens may have recourse beyond Google’s decision making about their personal right to be forgotten.
*Both businessmen remain anonymous because of, lol, privacy.