Thursday 18 January 2018

Adrian Weckler: Google ruling will open a can of worms on privacy

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

IS THE right to have your name expunged from Google's search results a great day for personal privacy or a worrying day for freedom of expression? The European Court of Justice's judgment has opened up a can of worms.

Now, if your name turns up in any Google search, you can demand that it be removed.

Unless you're a "public person" or there's some other "public interest" in it remaining there, Google has to comply.

And there's the rub. Who decides what the "public interest" is in each case? Who decides whether the businessman who decides to run for election should be first allowed to scrub out any references to himself on Google? Or whether a person's published bankruptcy proceedings should not be searchable?

On the face of it, the court has decided that this is to be the preserve of the Irish data protection commissioner, aided by the Irish courts.

In other words, if you want your name removed from Google searches, for whatever reason, contact the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner from today onwards – and you have a reasonable shot at it.

The judgment could have very far-reaching consequences. For example, many searches for people are now conducted through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Presumably, they must now also comply with this ruling.

News websites are also in the firing line. Some websites have hundreds of millions of readers, making them bigger than some search engines. This ruling will surely also apply, eventually, to them.

There are clearly some instances where it seems unfair that people's good name is compromised by perpetual links to inaccurate content.

But potentially handing over so much control of information to one body – the Data Protection Commissioner – is a big, big step.

Irish Independent

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