Right to be Forgotten

What is the Right to be Forgotten?

Since a ruling of the European Court in May 2014, individuals have had the right to request that results be removed from internet search engines.

It is not the same as removal of material from the internet, but if information is no longer available in a search result, it can have largely the same effect. 

How do I get the Right to be Forgotten?

The European Court has ruled that content should be removed from search results if it is:

  • irrelevant
  • outdated or
  • otherwise inappropriate.

Recent case law has confirmed that where someone has been convicted of a crime which is referred to in a search of their name, if they have led an otherwise blameless life, this should be taken into consideration. 

If the publication relates to a historic conviction, the application for the right to be forgotten is more likely to be successful if the conviction is spent. 

Requests can be made for various reasons, for example if an individual has been mentioned in a newspaper article, gone bankrupt or been accused of a crime such as fraud. It could also be used for the removal of embarrassing pictures, or if you have been a victim of libel.

How is an application for the Right to be Forgotten made?

Applications are submitted to each search engine using a specific form. If material is going to be removed, the request to the internet search engine has to include the correct information, such as the specific URLs to be removed, and an explanation of why the removal should take place, within the scope of the European Court's ruling. 

Each request is then examined on a case by case basis by the internet search engine. 

Google is by far the most widely used search engine in the UK and so most applications for the right to be forgotten are made to Google. Bing and Yahoo are the next most widely used. 

Are Right to be Forgotten applications effective?

It is still very difficult to ensure that someone can be "forgotten" from the internet entirely. However, if, for example, someone makes a successful request to Google UK to have content removed, then the content will also be dropped from Google searches in the other EU countries. 

Google's geotracking software will also ensure that if someone uses google.com to carry out a search within the EU, the unwanted results would also be blocked. 

What if an application for the Right to be Forgotten fails?

If a request to the internet search engine is refused, that decision can be appealed to the Information Commissioner's Office. The ICO will re-examine the case and decide whether or not to direct the search engine to remove the link to the offending material.

The ICO's criteria are wider than the criteria used by the search engines. The ICO will give more consideration to the effect upon the applicant of the continued publication of the material, and will take into account whether they have any role in public life, whether they have been placed at risk of physical harm as a result of the publication, and whether there are any Data Protection Act issues which need to be considered. 

How long do Right to be Forgotten applications take?

Once we have your instructions, we are generally able to make an application for the Right to be Forgotten within a few days. Although the time for a response from Google and other search engines can vary, in general, you will have a result within a couple of weeks.

If the application is successul, the link to the offending material will be broken straight away. 

If my application is successful, can results return?

The only way in which previously blocked search results can reappear in a search of your name, is if the URL (the web address which links to the material) is altered in any way. 

This can happen, and so it is worth checking every few months to ensure that results have not reappeared. If they do reappear, the process for applying to have the result removed again is relatively straightforward. 

What should I do next if I want to claim the Right to be Forgotten?

At Samuels we provide quick and efficient assistance for clients wishing to submit such requests to Google and other search engines, for a low fixed fee. We also assist clients with appeals to the Information Commissioner's Office again for a fixed fee. 

We have links with reputation management organisations, who we can recommend to clients who are unlikely to be able to have search results broken or suspended. These online professionals can ensure that bad results are pushed lower in the rankings so that positive results only appear on the initial pages.

Complete our online form below to instruct us to submit a request to Google on your behalf, or contact us for a fee no obligation disucssion about how we can help with your reputation management issues. 

 

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