When Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja González asked Google to remove his page one search results relating to the forced sale of his house, last year, it is unlikely that his lawyer would have been considering the case’s implications for civil liberties in Hong Kong.
Right to be forgotten extending its reach
Calls for the historic ruling – often referred to as the ‘Google Spain Case’, to encompass search results in Asia came soon after the ruling became reality in Europe. Commenting in the South China Morning Post, at the time, Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner, Allan Chiang Yam-wang, said: “As a responsible enterprise, Google should also entertain removal requests from other parts of the world to meet their privacy expectations.”
When a Hong Kong court ruled that businessman Albert Yeung was presented by Google in a libellous manner, the search engine petitioned against the findings. A court of appeal in Hong Kong, however, has subsequently ruled that Yeung ‘can sue’ the search engine for allowing a defamatory autosearch suggestion to appear for his name.
While Google’s argument is that the autosuggest material, is a result of ‘previous searches’, the court believes the information has been generated through the search engine’s algorithm procedures, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Although the case focuses on a different aspect of Google – its autosuggest feature, the case relates to how individuals are ‘presented’ online and has comparisons to the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling. Individuals are recognising they can challenge what appears in the search results – and not just in Europe.
The Background to the Ruling
In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (EJC) ruled that individuals have ‘The Right to be Forgotten’ online. The ruling makes Google, within the European Union (EU) only, responsible for removing links to ‘outdated’, ‘irrelevant’ or ‘no longer relevant’ personal information from search results.
The Google Spain Case has had a global impact on matters surrounding privacy. It allows individuals to make requests from search engines to remove embarrassing results. According to the FT article, Google has already removed ‘more than 750,000 links in Europe’. And, it seems, the ruling is raising questions with authorities internationally.
The ECJ ruling led Google to create a ‘right to be forgotten removal request tool’ through which removal requests can be made. The tool itself is relatively simple to use. It requires individuals to submit an online form outlining their removal request details. For more information click here.
However, even if websites are taken offline, a cache is still retained meaning that it is possible that the information never disappears completely. And, currently, information from European searches, can still be found on other Google search engines, for example Google.com.
Many requests are unsuccessful – last month an article in the Guardian pointed out that 60% of applications to remove information from Google under the law have been rejected by the search engine.
Are you looking to remove information from Google?
At Igniyte, we work with many international and overseas clients, helping them to challenge content appearing in their online search results. We advise customers on ‘right to be forgotten’ removal requests and where necessary help them to make the application.