Quite surprisingly, ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) of UK has taken another controversial step in the right to be forgotten story revolving around Google and law of the UK. ICO first asked Google to remove stories about a person who has been a criminal in the past but had since changed his life and requested search results about his history to be removed. This was requested to Google that the search engine giant remove stories about the past offenses of the criminal in support of right to be forgotten. There was first some resistance from Google but then Google obliged.
However, ICO has gone a step further and asked Google to remove further pages from its search engines. This time it has specifically asked Google to remove pages that contain stories about the previous removals of the search results. The originally requested pages had already been removed by Google but it was seen that pages that contained information about those removals and the offenses of the criminal involved in the story were still appearing in the search results. These pages were only pointing to the removed pages and stories about the removed pages but since they contained details about the past criminal, ICO requested Google to remove these pages too.
What’s Google Doing?
As expected, Google has not shown keenness in removing those results. Google does not seem pleased with such proceedings from ICO in the matter. In some way, we can also say that UK’s government and courts are only asking to remove certain information from search results rather than practicing the right to be forgotten law. ICO also went for a press release and told its readers about Google’s unhappiness on the second request of removals of links. In fact, it says that Google has completely denied removing these results by stating certain reasons. According to Google the pages that have been requested to be removed recently are pointing to the story of removals of the previous links and technically they belong to latest news that should be brought to the masses just like any other news.
We, as the American public, also understand where Google is coming from and fully agree to its stance on this particular matter. If Google has been requested to remove certain results from its search pages, we as public would like to know who asked to remove those pages, why Google was asked to remove those pages and what information did those pages contain. These are typically known as “Chilling Effects” notices here is the U.S. The chilling effects notice will add a link to a copy of the content owner’s DMCA Takedown Notice to that section of the Google index, when a site owner has threatened or notified Google of a potential copyright action. Google then de-indexes the content, and allows a “Safe harbor” period for the alleged infringer to respond, or delete the content, or risk the entire site being flagged as a potential plagiarizer site.
ICO Wants Results Removed
Despite Google’s refusal to remove the recently requested search results, ICO is persistently asking the search engine giant to remove them although ICO fully agrees to what Google has said about the pages. ICO does believe that the aforementioned pages concern a story that is recent and the public has the right to know about the story, but it has still asked Google to remove the pages. It has mentioned that these pages have to be removed because they contain information about the past of a criminal who has changed now but such results are creating a negative image of the person. These pages are also alleged for breaching the privacy of the person. By doing that, these pages are in violation with Data Protection Act.
How Much Pressure Is On Google?
Google has a lot of pressure on it. Not only because such requests can give rise to a fission reaction where a chain process will start and every country will request the same from Google but also because Google can face certain dangers for not following the orders. We can see an example of how big of a fine Google could have to pay from the case of The Money Shop. This particular company had to face a huge fine of 180,000 pounds from ICO when the company was not able to keep the information of its customers safe. A server containing the information of The Money Shop’s customer was stolen and the company had to face the huge fine from ICO.
We can see from here that ICO is in no mood to compromise on public privacy. Another important point to know here is that if Google does not listen to ICO’s orders it would be committing a bigger crime – in fact, it literally is considered a crime. If Google chooses to not follow the orders then it will be facing criminal charges and a huge fine, or maybe something else. However, Google does have a way to fight back if it faces the heat from ICO by filing an appeal in Information Tribunal.
The Big Paradox
The biggest problem with what’s happening in this whole scenario is that it gives rise to a big paradox. In a stricter sense, we might be moving in circles with this case if we continue to ask Google to remove pages that report to the removal of pages. In short, if Google has been asked to remove the pages that point to the story about the removal of previous pages, it will be asked again to remove the pages that have talked about the story of the removal of the removal of previous pages. To be accurate, this page that you are reading right now might also be requested to remove because it contains information about removal of pages by Google.
Right now it can only be said that Google is under a lot of pressure and how it reacts to the recent requests from ICO will define how strictly the right to be forgotten will be implemented. We might be right in the middle of a huge change in how Google has been operating online. It is very easy for governments from other countries of the world to ask Google to remove any information that is considered a breach of privacy of individuals. However, if things are going to get in such a shape where Google will be asked to remove pages concerning the pages with stories of removal of those pages, we can expect Google to either bring changes in its policies or fight against entities just as big as itself or bigger.
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