Following judgment handed down by Mr Justice Warby in the High Court on 13 April 2018, in the case of NT1 and NT2 (ciphers for the real names of the Claimants) against Google Inc in respect of complaints concerning their rights under the ‘Right to be Forgotten’, the Data Protection Act and their inherent right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Humans Rights (conveyed by the Human Rights Act 1998), the environment for individuals’ claims under the Right to be Forgotten and Google’s oft aloofness to such requests, has been shattered.
This case was the first of its kind in our jurisdiction against Google under the Right to be Forgotten also known, more accurately in a legal sense, as their right to have personal information ‘delisted’ or ‘de-indexed’ by Google’s search engine.
In short, the background to the claim was that both Claimants requested that Google, through correspondence initially, remove search results which referred to their previous historical criminal convictions. Google refused, which led to the onset of the proceedings.
Google defended the proceedings on various grounds, including that the continued processing of the alleged offending material as to the Claimants’ previous criminal convictions was necessary for the ‘public interest’. In finding for NT2 (having found against NT1), Mr Justice Warby relied on factors such as the relevance of the material, in particular to the current (or likely) business activities of NT2 which was described as a key conclusion reached by Mr Justice Warby when finding for NT2 (although he did not go as afar as to award NT2 damages – saying that Google had acted reasonably in the circumstances as per their obligations under the DPA). NT1 has been granted leave to appeal.
The case brought stark questions before the Court, which Mr Justice Warby had to tackle, and in his unflinching style, and as one would expect as the Judge at the head of the Media and Communication List, did so in robust and fair terms. This brave judgment will now give hope to many individuals who may have either been convicted of criminal offences which are spent and outdated, or indeed those who may have been accused of criminal convictions, which have been reported in the media, and then acquitted of offences after a trial, but the stench of which still remains online blighting their futures. It also shows that the Court is alive to the obligations of large scale internet search engines and their obligations under local and international law and will not allow such organisations to shirk responsibilities.
In addition, it shows that the Court is well aware of the real-life habits of people to Google someone as soon as they meet them, and generally take to heart what they read online and how this can colour a person’s view of another if the materials consumed is not accurate or up to date. This judgment will no doubt go some way to allowing victims of irrelevant, outdated or misleading material to combat such results and in turn move past the reputational cloud which may be hanging over them.
Director – Head of Media
Pinder Reaux Solicitors