Have you Googled yourself lately?

The High Court in Belfast recently touched upon the right to be forgotten in an application by a Plaintiff for leave to serve proceedings on a Defendant (Google Inc.) outside of the jurisdiction.   

The Plaintiff had accumulated what the Court described as a ‘considerable criminal record’ with details of his unspent convictions being readily available through Google searches.  As a result of this, he claimed to have received threats and been the subject of harassment.

Mr Justice Stephens (as he then was) concluded that, although the sentences imposed had run their course, they were not ‘spent’ for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 and therefore remained a matter of public record. 

This approach can be distinguished from that of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Google Spain case (2014) where a Spanish national made a complaint to their national data protection agency against both a newspaper and Google over content from the newspaper that appeared in Google search results against his name relating to his insolvency. The CJEU held that the activities of Google fell within a wide definition of ‘data processing’ and deemed them to be a data controller.  As his insolvency had run its course, he was entitled to request the information be removed.

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