Sunday, 29 June 2014

Kingsley Egbuonu

Google now implementing the ‘right to be forgotten’ decision

Whilst watching an interview on CNBC yesterday, this Leo picked up a couple of names of interest which he decided to look up. When he entered these names in his preferred search engine, Google, the following disclaimer was displayed below the search results for one of them: "Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe". Immediately, he knew that it was one of the watershed moments in the history of the internet - which we’ve all been waiting for since May.

Here is why, as Google explains:
“The recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") has profound consequences for search engines in Europe. The court found that certain users have the right to ask search engines like Google to remove results for queries that include the person's name. [See paragraph 94 of the judgment. So, not everyone will be granted the 'right to be forgotten'] To qualify, the results shown would need to be inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive. [A new ‘three-step’ test?]

Since this ruling was published on 13 May 2014, we've been working around the clock to comply. [Well, Google can afford it with its revenues and tax-efficient operations] This is a complicated process because we need to assess each individual request and balance the rights of the individual to control his or her personal data with the public's right to know and distribute information. [Google's in-house and external lawyers will have a lot of case law across the EU for guidance; public interest test and private life (Article 8) are two difficult and facts-based concepts to grapple with

…In evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about your private life. [How long is 'outdated'?. OK, Afro Leo has just provided this example: Katie Price can now tell Google to remove search results for content mentioning her name(s) and that she dated these individuals] We'll also look at whether there's a public interest in the information remaining in our search results – for example, if it relates to financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or your public conduct as a government official (elected or unelected). [Taking into account the CJEU's observation at paragraph 81. Essentially, individuals such as corrupt public officials will find it difficult to hide their past - though heavy lawyers or online reputation management consultants might do the trick]

These are difficult judgements and as a private organisation, we may not be in a good position to decide on your case. If you disagree with our decision you can contact your local DPA. [Google rightly warns that they are neither a court of law nor the appropriate public authority in charge of data protection, but that they’ll try their best to reach the right decisions or may even forward it directly to relevant DPA. The DPA for the UK will be the Information Commissioner’s Office]

We look forward to working closely with data protection authorities and others over the coming months as we refine our approach. [Hopefully, they'll swiftly assist Google with this headache] The CJEU's ruling constitutes a significant change for search engines. While we are concerned about its impact, we also believe that it's important to respect the Court's judgement and we are working hard to devise a process that complies with the law. [Google is trying to respect the laws of the land. Afro Leo hopes that search engines will remain free forever]

When you search for a name, you may see a notice that says that results may have been modified in accordance with data protection law in Europe. We’re showing this notice in Europe when a user searches for most names, not just pages that have been affected by a removal." [In case you find the 'need' to search for a name from an EU location, you'll most likely see the above disclaimer. 

As this Leo's friend informs him, based on experiment: "it doesn't mean that the individual has actually made a successful 'right to be forgotten' request; it's just that Google has set all successful removal requests, especially those under the simple old Webmaster URL Removal Toolto also display the disclaimer".

By inference, it looks as if Google couldn't just be bothered and decided to just throw everyone (including criminals e.g. here and here) into the same basket; alternatively, they're pretty much admitting that they had an idea, well before this decision, that they were a little bit in breach of EU data protection laws]

In the meantime, click here for the 'right to be forgotten' form.

Kingsley Egbuonu

Kingsley Egbuonu

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Write comments
30 June 2014 at 16:58 delete

It was too tempting to find out if has remembered to forget Mario Costeja Gonzalez. The web results indeed bear the notice at the bottom of the page, "Es posible que algunos resultados se hayan eliminado de acuerdo con la ley de protección de datos europea. Más información." But what happens if one clicks the 'Imágenes' tab? Aha. There are the reproductions of the original notice placed in La Vanguardia in 1998. Has MCG achieved digital immortality, rather than being forgotten?

1 July 2014 at 19:36 delete

Charles, thanks for sharing the experiment. :-)

I hope (or guess) that EU policymakers are aware of the
practical difficulty.