A businessman is taking legal action against Google to make it delete links to his criminal conviction in the first “right to be forgotten” case in the English courts.
The claimant was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990s and wants the search engine to remove results that mention his case. He is “treated as a pariah in his personal, business and social life” and has been “unable to form any new friendships or personal relationships” because of online newspaper articles about his conviction, according to court papers.
Google is fighting his request, arguing that the public has a right to information even though his conviction is deemed spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
The claimant, who has been granted anonymity to bring the action, remains active in the business world. “Google submits that all persons who may engage with the claimant — either as clients for his services or through such businesses activities — need, and are entitled, to be able readily to discover the truth about the claimant’s past,” the tech giant says in court filings.
The High Court case, which starts today, will be monitored by convicted criminals and others who want embarrassing stories erased from the web. In 2014 the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. That case was brought by a Spanish man who claimed that Google infringed his privacy by linking to information about his home repossession.
Since then, Google has received “right to be forgotten” requests to remove at least 2.4 million links from search results. Search engines can reject applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.
Google’s refusal to erase two links to newspaper articles referencing the businessman’s conviction led to today’s hearing. His legal team argues that the permanent availability of information about past convictions undermines rehabilitation. They point out that their client has not committed any crime since serving his sentence. The businessman is represented by Carter-Ruck, the law firm, and Sir Hugh Tomlinson, QC, chairman of the press regulation campaign Hacked Off.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has been granted permission to make representations to the court, given the case’s potential impact.
Google said: “We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are clearly in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful information.”
Another “right to be forgotten” claim against Google is due to be heard by the High Court next month. That person was convicted of conspiracy to intercept communications over a decade ago.
Source: The Times