Businessmen end ‘de-listing’ battle with Google

Two businessmen each with different verdicts about their ‘right to be forgotten’ on Google have walked away from the High Court.

But only one of them known only as ‘NT1,’ will likely be eying an appeal because his right to be forgotten -- a right that next month’s GDPR will enhance – was not upheld.

In particular, three links to news items covering his four-year prison sentence for conspiracy to account falsely should not be “de-listed” because, in part, they serve as public protection.

“He remains in business, and the information serves the purpose of minimising the risk that he will continue to mislead, as he has in the past,” Mr Justice Warby wrote in his judgment.

“His business career since leaving prison made the information relevant…[and] the information retains sufficient relevance today. He has [also] not accepted his guilt”.

This failure of NT1 to ‘show no remorse’ was contrasted by ‘NT2’ – a remorseful businessman who also went before the judge to ask that links about a conviction be removed.

But his conviction “more than ten years ago” was for the lesser crime of conspiracy to carry out surveillance, for which “there is no evidence of any risk of repetition.”

So although similar to NT1, because he too wanted old, outdated links of no public interest removed, NT2’s “past offending is of little if any relevance” to his business activities today.

“There is no real need for anybody to be warned about that activity,” the judge added.

“[NT2’s] crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability.”

Both businessmen sought compensation from Google and both were unsuccessful – in NT2’s case because Google established that it took ‘reasonable care,’ as the Data Protection Act requires.

Yet NT2’s victory – the first of its kind – will add to Google’s workload, as it will now have to treat applications it receives for de-listing with “intense scrutiny,” says Mishcon de Reya.

Other lawyers agree. “The decision should cause Google to put into place improved reviewing processes of de-listing requests”, said Carter-Ruck, which represented the businessmen.

“The judgment has wide-ranging and general implications for take-down requests and subsequent action in relation to inaccurate personal data and references to spent convictions on the internet.”

The law firm added it was working on “several other” de-listing and take-down complaints, the filers of which will likely pore over the judge’s reasoning for granting NT2 a de-listing order.

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