ICO Orders Google to Remove Links

On August 18, 2015, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued an enforcement notice against Google ordering the removal of nine search results that linked to information about a certain individual’s criminal offence.

This enforcement action is in line with the ruling made by the Court of Justice of the European Union last year against Google Inc. and Google Spain SL in which it decided that in certain circumstances search engines are obliged to remove from search results made on the basis of a person’s name, links to web pages where the data is incomplete or inaccurate, even if the publication itself on those web pages is lawful. This has become known as an individual’s ‘right to be forgotten’ and the activity of ‘de-listing’.

In this particular case, Google had previously removed links relating to the concerned individual’s criminal offence. However, following the de-listing, various articles were published about the removal, in which details of the individual’s offence were included. Google refused to remove the new links.

The ICO considered the following factors:

  • Public life: the relevant information did not concern an individual in public life.
  • Sensitive personal data: the information about the conviction fell within the definition of sensitive personal data.
  • Passage of time: the information was not reasonably current as it related to a conviction nearly 10 years ago.
  • Prejudice: the search results related to a conviction for a relatively minor criminal offence for which there is no wider public interest.
  • Journalistic context: while it was acknowledged that the search results related to journalistic content the ICO felt that the public interest could be adequately and properly met without a search being made on the individual’s name.

Google has 35 days from the date of the notice to remove the links from its search results.