Less than a third of 'right to be forgotten' requests are granted, Google reveals
Less than a third of Irish requests to remove Google search results are successful, according to new figures.
The statistics from Google show that there have been 2,300 separate Irish 'Right To Be Forgotten' requests, relating to 7,150 different website or social media links, since the system was introduced last May.
While only 29pc of requested search results have been delisted, examples of removed links include articles and court reports from the Irish Independent relating to drug offences, banking misconduct and a county council dispute over a pothole.
So far this year, links to 22 articles published by the Irish Independent and sister newspapers have been removed by Google. The articles, including many court reports, remain online at Independent.ie.
The removed search results include links to the following articles:
* A court report covering the arrest and conviction of a wealthy individual for allowing his home to be used for drug offences.
* An employment appeals tribunal report about a banker sacked for sharing a confidential password that gave access to billions in client funds.
* A court report where a former 'special forces' soldier from the former Yugoslav army seriously assaulted a man at the door of a Dublin nightclub, resulting in a €27,000 compensation award.
* A court report where a woman used a 'date rape' drug to steal from several victims.
* An article reporting on damage to vehicles from a pothole that Meath County Council "refused" to fix.
According to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, 30 appeals have been filed to the Office of Data Protection by people unhappy with the outcome of Google's decision on their removal requests. Dixon said that "quite a number of them have been resolved".
"In a number of cases, having analysed the complaint, we would have concurred with Google and understood the reasons why they refused the delisting," she said. "In a number of other cases, we would have disagreed and we would have set out our views to Google and liaised with them, and they would then have been resolved to the data subject's satisfaction."
In general, Google's removal rate relating to Irish requests is significantly below the Europe-wide deletion rate of 41.4pc and the UK removal rate of 37.7pc.
Indeed, only six countries (of 32) have a lower success rate for deletion of search result links than Ireland: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Italy. By comparison, Austria has the highest success rate, with 49.6pc of all URLs requested removed from Google's search results. Ireland's relatively low removal success rate suggests either a lower level of understanding among Irish citizens of what can be removed from Google search results or less professional involvement from solicitors and legal officers who do.
Alternatively, it could also suggest a legal framework (that Google uses for guidance when deciding on removal criteria) that is weaker in Ireland than in other European countries. For example, Google put forward a number of case studies to show why it deleted search results.
"A man asked that we remove a link to a news summary of a local magistrate's decisions that included the man's guilty verdict," said one of Google's case studies. "Under the UK Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, this conviction has been spent. We have removed the page from search results for his name."
But in Ireland, the same consideration might not be given by Google to this sort of rationale. Proposed Irish legislation on this matter (the 2012 Criminal Justice Spent Convictions Bill) has not been passed into law. The biggest single source of web links whose deletion from Google's search results is requested is Facebook. But this is still just over 1pc of requested URL deletions. Links to YouTube videos make up 0.7pc of deletion requests while links to Twitter posts form 0.5pc of removal requests.
Right to be forgotten cases:
What gets removed...
1. “A woman requested we remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. We have removed the page from search results for her name.”
2. “An individual asked us to remove a link to a page that had taken a self-published image and reposted it. The page has been removed from search results for her name.”
3. “A man asked that we remove a link to a news summary of a local magistrate’s decisions that included the man’s guilty verdict. Under the UK Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, this conviction has been spent. We have removed the page from search results for his name.”
4. “An individual asked us to remove a link to an article covering a contest in which he participated as a minor. We have removed the page from search results for his name.”
And what doesn’t...
1. “A public official asked us to remove a link to a student organisation’s petition demanding his removal. We did not remove the page from search results.”
2. “We received a request from an individual to remove over 50 links to articles and blog posts reporting on public outcry over accusations that he was abusing welfare services. We did not remove the pages from search results.”
3. “A media professional requested we remove four links to articles reporting on embarrassing content he posted to the internet. We did not remove the pages”
4. “We received a request from a former clergyman to remove 2 links to articles covering an investigation of sexual abuse accusations while in his professional capacity. We did not remove the pages from search results.”