Note added 11 December: Google have appealed the Enforcement Notice so let legal battle commence.
In the last blog, I reported that Google had been ordered to remove nine search results and that the case was important as it related to Google’s practice of notifying websites that certain personal data have been delisted when searching by name. I wrote the blog after I was told by the Information Commission’s (ICO’s) press office that Google had not appealed the ICO’s Enforcement Notice.
However, I have heard subsequently from the beating of the tom-toms in the data protection jungle that Google did not appeal because the ICO had withdrawn its Enforcement Notice (even though at the time of posting this blog, the Google Enforcement Notice is still published on the ICO’s website; see references).
So plucking up courage, I asked the ICO whether the drum-beats were correct: “Has the enforcement notice been withdrawn because, for instance, it was defective?”, I asked. The answer was: “We’ll shortly be publishing a blog which will give more information. We’ll let you know when it’s published” – which I have to presume is a long-winded way of saying “yes”.
So, much of the last blog could well be wrong. Sorry about that.
However, the case is still very important as it relates to Google’s policy of informing website owners of the fact of a Google delisting.
For instance, look at the page on the BBC website (“List of BBC web pages which have been removed from Google's search results”) where several stories have been delisted by Google and re-emphasised by the BBC (including the personal data that have been delisted). As before, by delisting, BBC articles are only delisted from results for search queries on certain names; they are not removed from the Google index entirely (i.e. other search parameters could produce the link that is delisted with a search on a name).
The BBC explains that it “has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top” (see references).
Should the BBC do this? Is it fair to data subjects? Are such stories needed to protect freedom of speech etc etc? Important questions that need answers.
The options open to the ICO, to be explained in its forthcoming blog, are as follows:
- ICO does nothing on the enforcement front; the new links remain and the “Right to be Forgotten” risks being diminished in the UK.
- ICO confirms that enforcement is not needed because Google has taken down the new links; the “Right to be Forgotten” is likely to be enhanced in the UK.
- ICO enforces, Google appeals and an interesting legal battle commences (the chosen option).
Google’s enforcement notice: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/enforcement-notices/1432380/google-inc-enforcement-notice-18082015.pdf.
BBC website of delisted stories: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/entries/1d765aa8-600b-4f32-b110-d02fbf7fd379
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