Removing search results under a right to be forgotten
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Who can have search results removed under a right to be forgotten
Adverse results from search engines can often have severe consequences, sometimes affecting you as an individual, sometimes affecting your family and at other times affecting your business. Having to live with adverse internet search results forevermore seems particularly unfair where the information presented by the search engine against your name or the name is untrue, deceptive or old.
Traditionally, search engine operators have been very reluctant to filter search engine results. However, this changed entirely following the decision in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja Gonzalez (Case C-131/12) – Also known as ‘Google Spain’. The implications of the Google Spain decision were twofold. It established firstly, that those who suffer from negative search engine results had a ‘right be forgotten’.
Secondly, it established that Google and other search engine operators were ‘Data Controllers’ for the purposes of European data protection law.
In relation to search engine results, the right to be forgotten is the right for an individual not to have their personal data processed where the processing is "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive”. However the right to be forgotten is not an absolute right and it only applies to people who live, reside or with a connection to a country within the European Economic Area.
An individual is entitled to request that Google or other search engine operators apply a filter to results so that certain articles which refer to them are excluded from what most people can see when they carry out an internet search under their name. The search results that our clients are often aggrieved about can range from unsubstantiated opinions which are expressed on blogs or online discussion forums, to media reports or to publications about previous criminal convictions or about regulatory disciplinary actions.
The right to be forgotten recognises that outdated information or information that is inaccurate or that is presented unfairly, should not be returned on a search against an individual’s name if that person objects to it. Whilst some of our clients have already acted independently by approaching Google and by completing the online search removal request, most of them appreciate the implications of completing a form that can determine their future without first seeking legal advice.
It is impossible to stress enough how important it is for anyone intending to make a right to be forgotten application to approach a lawyer who is an expert in the field and who understands the law and how to approach the search engines. Before making a right to be forgotten request you should study and understand what information must be included in the application to enhance the likelihood of success. The errors that individuals tend to make when completing a right to be forgotten request tend to be common errors which unfortunately often produce an adverse outcome.
Removing search results under a right to be forgotten can be very challenging. Successfully completing the request to Google under a right to be forgotten and your ability to contest objections by Google following the submission of a right to be forgotten application may be a decisive factor for those who wish to put the past behind them and move on with their lives as there might never be a second opportunity. Unfortunately, too many of the right to be forgotten applications that come to us have been previously refused because the applicant did not realise that they had to refer Google to the right law or because the application was clearly being misunderstood by Google.
When Google is in doubt, you are more likely that receive a refusal than an affirmation of your link removal request. If you were to be unsuccessful with your right to be forgotten request, it is not too late to ask for support and advice from an legal expert as you might still have an opportunity to request that Google review its own decision or that the Information Commissioner’s Office investigate your case and hopefully order Google to change its original decision to refuse you. Whilst those additional steps are often available, most people will be better off having their right to be forgotten request being allowed after their initial request to Google.
This is likely to save time, stress and costs. If you have already approached Google and it has refused to filter articles about you from search results, rest assured that we can still assist you with challenging the decision and achieving the right result. At least, you might wish to take up our initial consultation offer. We will tell you exactly how to approach Google and what information to include in your application to maximise your likelihood of success.