back to article Google settles Right To Be Forgotten case on eve of appeal hearing

Google has settled a legal case brought against it by a convicted criminal who wanted the adtech company to delete embarrassing search results about his criminal past. This morning, the Court of Appeal in London was due to hear the anonymised businessman's appeal against an earlier High Court ruling which said he couldn't have …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Will Google file a Right To Be Forgotten order over this case and delete it from the Internet?

  2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    A question for the lawyers

    If the case is over, does the reporting restriction cease? Do we get to know who NT1 is?

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: A question for the lawyers

      Nope, it's still in force.

      1. Velv

        Re: A question for the lawyers

        Is someone petitioning for the reporting restriction to be lifted now the case is over?

    2. Uberior

      Re: A question for the lawyers

      Surely that restriction only covers England and Wales?

      Wouldn't be the first time that a Scottish Newspaper has published a story that it's illegal to report in England.

      1. djstardust

        Re: A question for the lawyers

        Elton John...

    3. Zane-insane

      Re: A question for the lawyers

      I would hope not, the point of the anonymity is surely to prevent the Streisand effect. Otherwise no-one would be able to challenge big corporations such as Google. The point is the cases were looking at the issue of maintaining privacy, if to do this you have to give up your privacy and have intense public publicity, then you lose either way and nothing can ever change.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny old world ...

    meanwhile, the Windrush generation would *love* to be remembered .....

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Funny old world ...

      In the modern world, corporations are "people" too, so will we see them using the "Right to be Forgotten" in the future? Will politicians start calling on the"Right to be Forgotten" to remove evidence of their previous antagonism towards citizens that they think might vote for them in the next election?

      The Right to be Forgotten fixes nothing, it's just kicking the can down the road.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Funny old world ...

        No, that would fall under public interest exceptions.

      2. Zane-insane

        Re: Funny old world ...

        There is a fairly high standard of "public interest", any one in the public eye, such as politicians won't benefit.

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge


    Over here in feraldom, court cases, unless specifically sealed, are public record. So any bankruptcy, criminal charges, conviction, divorces, etc. would be available from the court even if it is not online. So how does the EU handle public access to court records? Are they public documents accessible to all or the do you need a reason to see them? This is point of law I do not know. It seems like these cases really hinge on who can access the court records.

    1. Pseu Donyme

      Re: Question

      The thing is that even if something is a part of the public record or otherwise public, it still cannot be handled willy-nilly over here in the EU. This is a data protection issue: personal data may only be processed* with the consent of the person in question unless there is an exemption. Processing for public record falls under the required-by-law-exemption, likewise Google needs an exemption to process personal data without consent (which, obviously, there wasn't in this case). The issue was whether Google's processing for search would have fallen under the public-interest-exemption; here "the right to be forgotten" comes in to play when something is no longer considered relevant to public interest.

      *per the original data protection directive (now replaced by the GDPR) processing means "any operation or set of operations which is performed upon personal data, whether or not by automatic means, such as collection, recording, organization, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, blocking, erasure or destruction"

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Question

      "So how does the EU handle public access to court records?"

      This is the whole crux of the information age. Not so very long ago, you could move to a new town and start a new life and have your previous mis-deeds "forgotten". With the internet and search engines, it's almost impossible to "move on", even if you plan to turn over a new leaf and be a model citizen. For this reason, electronic records are handle far more stringently than paper records simple because they are easier to disseminate and search from almost anywhere.

      A job applicant who did a bit of shoplifting in his/her youth really should expect that information to stay private, ie the interviewer should not be able to do a quick online search and find a 20 year old spent conviction and maybe not offer the job based on that. But an abnormally diligent interviewer could still legally look at the applicants list of previous addresses and go manually rummage through the related local court records in the relevant towns if they felt the need.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question

        "This is the whole crux of the information age. Not so very long ago, you could move to a new town and start a new life and have your previous mis-deeds "forgotten". "

        While I agree with this argument in principle, looking through some of the lists of items that have been "purged" (i.e. there's not too many model citizens that appear to be after a second chance and an awful lot of fraudsters and bullies that look like they want to try their luck again...

        I'm happy to retain the right to privacy as long as the media are able to continue to discuss the broad details of anonymised cases, so that there is risk of identification from bringing these cases if they do stray from their new found model behavior.

    3. Nick Kew

      Re: Question

      Court records are public. Newspaper stories are public. If someone wrote a book or made a film, that's public.

      The point is, how does anyone find the story if they don't already know it, or at the very least know there is a story to find? If NT1 offers me a business proposition that involves investing my life savings, I will naturally want to do due diligence, which will include googling NT1's track record. NT1 would very much like me NOT to find out about his past conviction for fraud in a similar scheme where he took investors' money and they never saw it again. Whereas Google would like to help as best it can with my due diligence.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Question

      The right to be forgotten sees the ease of access as the problem, not that the information is available.

      For example, in the past a conviction was published in the newspaper and it was in court records. After some months or years (depending on the notorietey of the case), if falls away from the public conciousness.

      Only those that were really interested would find it by either going to the newspapers and digging through their archives or by going to the court and getting the relevant permission to look at the case.

      Nowadays such stories on websites are easier to find, even if they would have normally dropped out of the public consciousness. If the results would turn up on page 50 or 100, it wouldn't be such a problem, but in some instances the information is still turning up on the first page. This is in some instances quai-illegal, because of rehabilitation laws, for example. So the right to be forgotten was dreamt up to help in such situations.

      You can't tell the newspapers to remove the content, because that is valid content, just like you coudn't tell a newspaper to burn its archives after a set amount of time. Likewise public record cannot be altered or deleted. But you can "level-the-playingfield" by removing it from easy sources of indexed material, so the search engines and some summary websites can be asked to remove links / results that point to the original information.

      This means that a casual searcher won't find information they should no longer have "easy" access to, but a committed searcher, E.g. an author writing a book or somebody doing a deep background check can still go to the source material (newspaper, public archives, court archives etc.) and pull out the relevant information, they just have to do the proper amount of legwork.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Likewise public record cannot be altered or deleted.

        I suspect you meant "should not". Public records have been altered and deleted for probably as long as they have existed. It's just that destroying, say, some incriminating cuneiform tablets with a mallet is easier than destroying all extant copies (even those in the internet archive) of Hansard.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Question

        The right to be forgotten sees the ease of access as the problem, not that the information is available.

        Yes. It's a right based on fundamentally medieval worldview, and I expect we'll be well rid of it in a few generations, if not sooner.

    5. Zane-insane

      Re: Question

      An argument of Right to be forgotten, is after a certain amount of time your conviction is considered spent in the UK, and in most (but to all) cases you can truthfully state that you do not have a conviction any longer. Serious convictions are never spent, and certain jobs working with the vulnerable you still have to disclose. The idea is that a person is unlikely to be a risk after a certain amount time, and that having to declare a conviction prevents people from gaining employment. People who can't gain employment are more likely to reoffend, so there is a risk to society if we don't let people move on. If of course, the top google result mentions some conviction from a decade go, then it really bypasses the "rehabilitation of offenders" act, making it harder for someone to move on. The Right to be Forgotten isn't about removing the actual information from the internet, it's about it not appearing if someone searches on a name.

  5. Deltics

    The "right to be forgotten" is specious nonesense. There is no such right. Or if there is, it is in constant conflict with everybody else's "right to remember".

    Lest we forget.

    1. Raedwald Bretwalda

      It has, apparently, been the law in Britain since 1974

      ...where a question seeking information with respect to a person’s previous convictions, offences, conduct or circumstances is put to him or to any other person otherwise than in proceedings before a judicial authority—

      (a)the question shall be treated as not relating to spent convictions or to any circumstances ancillary to spent convictions, and the answer thereto may be framed accordingly; and

      (b)the person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        It has, apparently, been the law in Britain since 1974

        While that's of some interest, law and right are two different things.

    2. Zane-insane

      Totally disagree, research shows that after a period of time many people with convictions are unlikely to reoffend, to same as extent as anyone else in the population. If they are being denied employment because the top google result mentions their past, that is not good for society.

  6. ivan5

    Can we assume that this guy wants his past removed from search results because he wants to get back on the game of handling other peoples money. If he does then it would be sensible that people doing due diligence should be able to find out that information.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Can we assume that this guy wants his past removed from search results because he wants to get back on the game of handling other peoples money. "

      Working entirely from reports on the case: Yes - people were looking him up, finding his history and deciding they wanted as much to do with him as they would with a Killer Rabbit unless they happened to possess a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Google settled the case out of court"

    That is a shame. It means that no actual decision is going to be taken, arguments are not going to be heard and Justice has no say.

    All that in the name of protecting the revenue of a corporation that has more money than it can spend.

    Google obviously knew what it was doing ; it evaluated the man (a crook with a strong penchant for money) and found the right amount to shut him up before a judge could lay in with a decision that might hurt Google long term more than losing the case would.

    Hey, two crooks would obviously find common ground, right ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Google settled the case out of court"

      I don't know why you assume Google paid him any money. They probably expected to win the appeal like they had won the first ruling.

      Anyway, they had nothing much to lose. It's just a couple of results removed from Google, and they were fighting the removal for principle more than anything.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: "Google settled the case out of court"

        Anyway, they had nothing much to lose. It's just a couple of results removed from Google, and they were fighting the removal for principle more than anything.

        The principle I doubt, that includes the assumption that Google has some sort of moral standpoint - they are fighting the inevitable flood of other requests they'd have to process otherwise, nothing else - which would cost, and add to complexity of their search system.

    2. ratfox

      Re: "Google settled the case out of court"

      found the right amount to shut him up before a judge could lay in with a decision that might hurt Google long term more than losing the case would.

      Why would Google even be hurt by losing the case? The only thing it would mean is that they would have to remove the results, just like they did in the other case that they lost on first ruling.

      These lawsuits are case-by-case, they're not going to be used as precedent to create new consumer rights. Winning or losing them means nothing to Google, except maybe feedback on what requests they should accept before they go to court.

      As for "Justice has no say", if you read the story and read the previous articles, you'd know that there was already a ruling, and the decision was taken, without particularly interesting arguments.

  8. Barrie Shepherd

    "Google settled the case out of court"

    Probably a smart move. They just delete the links to the specific material NT1 did not like and that's it.

    Having no judgment probably stopped NT1 widening the censorship and means that a search for NT1's real name will still bring out other links and new links can be added in the future.

    It also keeps the matter running as thousands of inquisitive people are searching the Inetrwebs to discover who NT1 is

    1. Craig 2

      Re:"thousands of inquisitive people are searching the Inetrwebs to discover who NT1 is"

      Without infringing the court order, how would you go about that? I'm intrigued....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regular readers of Private Eye

    Will have immediately recognized the name Carter Ruck.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge

      Re: Regular readers of Private Eye

      Private Eye don't call them Carter Ruck.

      Up vote for the reference though.

  10. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I guess having the details of his criminal conviction easily found online goes against the principle of the Rehabilitation of offenders act which says after a certain period of keeping your nose clean your conviction becomes spent and you no longer need to disclose it when applying for jobs, insurance etc.

    A spent conviction would still show up on a police criminal records check, so he would no doubt not get a job working for any organisation that required DBS checks before employment.

    A much simpler option for NT1 would have been to just change his name by deed poll to David Jones or another common name. Then any Google search is likely to reveals millions of results and make them very hard to tie down to one individual. Doing that costs nothing as you can print out a deed poll for free online as opposed to paying for high priced lawyers to fight Google in court.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How will I do my Due Dilligence now?

    If I am involved in a potential deal, how will I be able ensure that this person is not involved? It looks like he is covering his tracks in advance. This looks like evidence that he has more financial plans in mind.

    If he was truly reformed, NT! should have moved into an entirely different sphere of activity. It makes me thing of a professional car thief looking to go back into the spare parts business after "doing time". He should have become a bricklayer, programmer, gardener or a novelist for example.

    This entire legal action proves that he should be de-anonymised.

    Carter Ruck? Where have I heard of them before? Do they ever take cases on for the worthy causes or do they only represent people who need their names plastered across all headlines in really big bold print?

    1. Zane-insane

      Re: How will I do my Due Dilligence now?

      It sounds like he didn't pursue, so his name will still come up if searching. His anonymity is just for this actual challenge against Google, and I don't have a problem with that, as naming him would mean no-one would be able to fight privacy issues like this

  12. ben kendim

    Costeja González has no right to be forgotten in the USA... Thankfully.

  13. ratfox

    "Google settles"

    The only other article I could find on the subject (Grauniad) has the title: "Man withdraws 'right to be forgotten' case against Google".

    There's no telling what happened and if money exchanged hands, but I find it interesting how different the two titles sound, even though they convey the same basic information.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "Google settles"

      FWIW either is right - a settlement means both sides withdraw from a case. We just think Google is the bigger name.


  14. Alistair

    Sad that there is no direct outcome in court here. One seriously has to wonder if NT1 has been endowed with any additional wisdom in the ensuing years that can be used to enhance his returns to the business empire world.

    Of course, this could just be Barbra having learned a lesson or two along the way.....

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Ironical that the person seeking anonymity... referred to by the tradename of a microphone.

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