Google to snub some take-down requests
London – Members of parliament, celebrities and public figures who try to whitewash their reputations by demanding Google remove embarrassing material from search results will have their requests turned down.
The European Court of Justice ruled last month that individuals can demand Google and other search engines remove material that is no longer relevant or out of date.
Google has already had 50,000 requests to remove data and started removing links from search results last week.
However, Google considers that the ruling does not extend to public figures who want to remove potentially damaging material from public view.
An MP seeking re-election and an actor wanting details of an affair with a teenager are among those who have made take-down requests. It is understood such applications will be refused.
Google’s interpretation of the ruling, to exclude requests from public figures, could be challenged in Britain with a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. However, lawyers say that famous people may be reluctant to fight a high-profile case that could draw greater attention to the material they are trying to remove.
Google will also turn down requests from private individuals where it considers the public interest in the material remaining in search results outweighs that person’s right to privacy.
This is likely to include recent criminal offences and professionals who wish to see reports of disciplinary procedures against them deleted.
London lawyer Larry Cohen said the European court ruling concerned a private individual – a Spanish man who had wanted a 1998 auction notice on his repossessed home removed from search results, and that Google had sound legal grounds for turning down requests from public figures.
‘‘The ruling makes clear that public figures have a lower expectation of privacy. This judgment will help certain people, but not when it concerns public figures or people in whom there is a genuine public interest,’’ he said.
The ruling states that individuals have a fundamental right to privacy that is greater than the need to provide information to the public. It adds, however, that the right to privacy can be breached for specific reasons ‘‘such as the role played by the data subject in public life’’.