High Court rules against Google in 'right to be forgotten' case

London cases help define the line between privacy and public interest

A businessman won his 'right to be forgotten' case against Google in a ruling made in London on Friday.

Since the EU's landmark 2014 decision, the company has been inundated with requests from individuals for over 2.4 million links they claim are inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive to be removed, and has complied with around 800,000 of them.

However, it denied requests from two businessmen, resulting in legal action that has made its way to the High Court.

The man who won his case, known as NT2 to preserve his anonymity, was one of the two unnamed men fighting for their past convictions to be delisted. He was convicted more than a decade ago ago for "conspiracy to intercept communications" and served six months in prison, according to The Guardian.

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Due to his remorse, the nature of his crime and Warby's opinion that the conviction was not relevant to NT2's future business dealings, Warby ruled in favor of NT2, but did not grant any damages.

Warby's conclusion stated that "the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability".

The ruling on the other businessman, NT1, was also released on Friday. NT1 was convicted in the late 1990s of false accounting and served four years in prison.

Unlike NT2, Warby ruled against the claimant, saying: "He has not accepted his guilt, has misled the public and this court, and shows no remorse over any of these matters."

Warby refused to order the information delisted because it is still relevant for people doing business with NT1 and, while not totally deleted, would be much more difficult for them to find.

Justice Warby expects to see more claims coming in since NT2's successful case.

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While some fear this ruling will trigger an onslaught of public figures trying to delete their history, Google has tried to assuage these concerns while maintaining its own rights.

Its EU Privacy Removal page states it will delist information "where the interests in those results appearing are outweighed by the person's privacy rights," but that it may refuse to remove information of public interest, such as "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials".

Antony White, the barrister representing Google in the court cases, said earlier in one of the trials that Google will not allow people to "rewrite history" or "tailor [their] past".

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