As a Post Conviction and Human Rights lawyer I have a particular interest in the topic of rehabilitation of criminals and the right of the individual to put their past behind them.
But due to the ever-evolving digital age it’s not as easy as simply doing the time and starting afresh. This has become an urgent problem of the digital age for all individuals who face the difficulty of escaping their past now that the internet records everything and forgets nothing.
To address this issue, the Court of Justice of the European Union has decided that with the expansion of technology in relation to data processing, and retention that that idea needs to be expanded so that everyone should have a droit d'oubli (right to be forgotten) for incorrect or outdated information.
The case of Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González was brought by a Spanish Citizen, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, and the first case of its kind to go to Court. Gonzalez complained that Google searches on his name produced links to a 1998 auction notice of his repossessed home which was tarnishing his reputation.
Because of this ruling, the Court expresses the view that people have a right to privacy, and that that privacy extends to information about them. As a result, Google is now required to remove data that is considered to be ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.’ In summary this is a case where the right to privacy triumphed.
So how does someone go about getting their past deleted from Google and other search engines future listings?
If someone wants information about them removed from the web results they will have to apply to Google via a form to request they remove the links in question stating the reasons why. Google will then have to weigh up whether it is in the public interest for that information to remain. At the moment this only applies to EU-versions of Google.
The form allows an individual or someone representing an individual to put in a request. Only requests that are completed accurately, which demonstrate that the listing is ‘irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate’ will be removed.
Google has already received thousands of requests, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis and most of these are unlikely to be approved, as they won’t have met the formalised criteria that the form requires. If rejected, individuals can appeal the decision to the Information Commissioner who will look at whether the information contained in the link breaches the data protection principles and consider whether the public interest outweighs any negative effect it is having on the individual making the application.
At Kirwans we have an experienced team who can advise on making a successful application to Google for the “right to be forgotten”. Where applications have previously been refused we can assist you in making an application to the Information Commissioner to appeal the decision.