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ICO issues response to ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued its first comment following the European ruling that essentially mandates Google and other search engine providers to remove irrelevant material.

With the body admitting that it is challenged by the ruling, a post to its blog by the ICO’s head of data protection, David Smith, said:

“This judgment was only made last week, and the companies will need some time to work out how they’re going to handle this. We won’t be ruling on any complaints until the search providers have had a reasonable time to put their systems in place and start considering requests.”

The post went on to say that, being mindful of the work that search engines need to put in place, no action in response to the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling would be taken for a number of months.

On May 13, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that search engine results linking to a certain page had to be removed as they had become irrelevant over time. The ruling did not stretch to the page where the content was housed, just the search results.

However, the ruling was extended to allow other people with similar irrelevant results to take action to have their search engine results pages (SERPS) modified and removed, unless justification for their continued appearance was proven.

The ICO will step into the process should search providers not comply to take down requests.

Many leading lights in the online world have decried the ruling, with Google commenting that it was “disappointing” while Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales claimed it was “astonishing”. Wales went on to say that it was tantamount to censoring the internet.

The ICO said implementing the ruling would be challenging to put into practice, requiring time and careful guidance. There would also be a need for sensible expectations to be set, so that the public can understand how the process will operate.

Steven Morris

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