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Law Society Awards winners. Cohen Davis

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TheInternet LawCentre

The opportunity - a right to be forgotten

right to be forgotten legal advice solicitors

Adverse results from search engines can often have severe consequences, sometimes affecting you as an individual, sometimes affecting your family and at other times affecting your business. This will seem particularly unfair where the information presented by the search engine against your name or the name of your business is untrue, deceptive or very old.

Traditionally, search engine operators have been very reluctant to filter search engine results. However, this changed entirely following the decision in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja Gonzalez (Case C-131/12) – Also known as ‘Google Spain’. The implications of the Google Spain decision were twofold. It established firstly, that those who suffer from negative search engine results had a ‘right be forgotten’. Secondly, it established that Google and other search engine operators were ‘Data Controllers’ for the purposes of European data protection law. In relation to search engine results, the right to be forgotten is the right for an individual not to have their personal data processed where the processing is "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive”. However the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not an absolute right.

The opportunity

An individual is entitled to request that Google or other search engine operators filter results. The search results that our clients are often aggrieved about can range from opinions expressed on blogs, to media reports, to previous convictions that are now spent. The right to be forgotten recognises that outdated information like this should not be returned on a search against an individual’s name if that person objects to it. Often, we find that many of our clients have already acted by approaching Google and completing its ‘Search removal request under data protection law Europe’ form. However, we cannot express strongly enough how important it for anyone intending to make a right to be forgotten application to approach a lawyer who is an expert in the field and who understands the law and understands what must be included in the ‘Search removal request under data protection law Europe’ form for your right to be forgotten application to be successful.

We say this as for many, this form is the only chance of ever being able to get rid of unwanted information on the internet. There might never be a second opportunity! Unfortunately too many of the right to be forgotten applications that come to us have been previously refused because the applicant did not realise they had to refer Google to the right law or because the application was clearly being misunderstood by Google, who if in doubt always say “no”. If the applicant is unsuccessful at this stage; they may request that Google reviews its decision; alternatively they may complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office or seek a court order requiring Google to filter search engine results, all of which are likely to involve incurring further costs. If you have already approached Google and it has refused to filter articles about you from search results, rest assured that we can still assist you with challenging the decision and achieving the right result. At least, take up our initial consultation offer. We will tell you exactly how to approach Google and what information to include in your application to maximise your likelihood of success.

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