Court: Google must uphold convicted criminal's Right to be Forgotten

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An appellate court in the Netherlands ordered Google to enforce an attorney's demand that web pages detailing his criminal conviction be blocked from appearing in search engine results. Tuesday's decision by the court in Den Haag upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court in Rotterdam, with the decision suggesting the European Union's "Right to be Forgotten" puts the man's privacy above the public interest because he is not a public figure, according to Nu.nl

The European Right to be Forgotten came in place three years ago. Since then, Google received 32,661 requests from people in the Netherlands who wanted the remove links to 113,828 different web pages. The company eventually took down just over 46 percent of these, or 45,303 links, according to Nu.nl.

Until now, Google often left criminal conviction-related search results untouched regardless of the "requests to forget" the company received. 

The Court stated that Google has to delete its results regarding the 2012 conviction of a lawyer who reportedly was in possession of prohibited weapons. The man's conviction was publicized on a British blog, which named and shamed him, and consequently listed by Google. Because the conviction keeps haunting him, he said he asked Google to delete the search results in name of the European Right to be Forgotten.

However, Google denies such requests in criminal matters, unless it regards a conviction that has been dismissed in an appeal. Google appealed in August of 2016 after Rotterdam’s court sided with the lawyer.

The case may have broader implications for similar cases where companies receive a request to forget. Google currently is tasked with weighing the public interest against one’s personal privacy in these matters, including criminal convictions. The court ruling implies that the involvement of public figures, or extreme criminal circumstances warrant exemption from the Right to be Forgotten.

 

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