Google loses 'right to be forgotten' case

Individual privacy vs. public good gets its day in court

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" on Google has won his "unprecedented" High Court action against the tech giant.

Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted.

The company's representative, Antony White QC, said that the ruling was "not a right to rewrite history or. tailor your past if that's what this claimant would like to use it for".

Some 669,355 requests for links to be removed from the search engine results have been made to Google since the ruling.

The businessman who lost his case had complained about three links returned by Google providing information about his conviction for "conspiracy to account falsely", for which he received a sentence of four years. "There is no real need for anybody to be warned about that activity". The businessman was involved in a multi-million pound fraud.

Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added: "It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that".

Under English law created to rehabilitate offenders, those convictions don't have to be disclosed to potential employers and can effectively be ignored.

"The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 sought to strike a balance on this thorny topic". "That held good until the internet and Google's powerful search engine rather undid matters".

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"The Court will have to balance the public's right to access the historical record, the precise impacts on the person, and the public interest".

"The crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability, so that an appropriate delisting order should be made", Justice Warby of the High Court said, The Telegraph reported.

The Right to Be Forgotten can be interpreted in various ways by courts throughout Europe.

The judges said the right to privacy should prevail after laying down a series of benchmarks including impact on work and family life that dictated whether results should be easily available.

"Given his family situation, the loss of his job would cause him a very serious prejudice, especially given that it took him almost two years to find a new job", the judges said.

"He remains in business, and the information serves the objective of minimizing the risk that he will continue to mislead, as he has in the past", the court said. Plus, since he "remains in business", the information remains relevant to the public. Others, however, expressed concern that the ruling could harm free press and speech rights.

As Engadget noted, the London high court ruling could force internet companies to not immediately dismiss conviction-related delisting requests.

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