Google told to remove stories on businessman's crime

LONDON • Google has been told by a London judge to remove links to old stories about a businessman's criminal conviction from search results, in a case that could dramatically expand Europe's "Right to be Forgotten" law.

Justice Mark Warby said in a ruling that one story in a British national newspaper was "misleading as to the nature and extent of the claimant's criminality". He further said all 11 articles related to the man should be delisted by Google.

"The crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest," Mr Warby said on Friday.

The original EU court ruling failed to outline clear terms for when a search engine should remove information. The law can be interpreted in various ways by courts throughout Europe.

The new British ruling may be the first case from a major court that effectively ruled that criminal conduct can be erased from Google.

It comes against a backdrop of European criticism of American technology companies' ability to protect user privacy.

Facebook is embroiled in a scandal over the data of tens of millions of people being improperly shared with a political consulting firm.

Google is fighting court cases and privacy regulators across Europe over how far it should go to delete links. It must remove information about a person on request if it is outdated or irrelevant, under a 2014 European Union top court ruling.

"We work hard to comply with the Right to be Forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public's right to access lawful information," California-based Google said.

The court refused to award damages to the businessman, saying Google took reasonable care in the case.

Meanwhile, the judge rejected the request of a second businessman who was guilty of a more serious offence to have links to articles taken down.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 15, 2018, with the headline 'Google told to remove stories on businessman's crime'. Print Edition | Subscribe