A United Kingdom judge has ordered Google to remove old articles about a businessman's past crime from its search results, dealing a blow to the tech company in its legal battle over Europe's "right to be forgotten" law.
'His past offending is of little if any relevance to anybody's assessment of his suitability to engage in relevant business activity now, or in the future.
At a high level, it refers to the right of people to either have certain adverse data about them blocked from being Internet accessible, or to have entries removed from search engine results on their names if the information in those entries is outdated or irrelevant.
"We work hard to comply with the Right to be Forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public's right to access lawful information", Mountain View, California-based Google said in a statement.
Both businessmen, who were convicted of criminal offences many years ago, argued that their convictions were now legally "spent", and that they have been rehabilitated.
Justice Warby noted in his rulings that he had ruled in favor of the one man because the judge believed that the individual involved had "shown remorse", but the judge did not accept the other petitioner's claim, because the latter had continued to "mislead the public".
The ruling came about after a case brought against Google by Spaniard Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who wanted two newspaper articles dating back to 1998 to be deleted from the search results page.
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Under English law created to rehabilitate offenders, those convictions don't have to be disclosed to potential employers and can effectively be ignored.
"The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 sought to strike a balance on this thorny topic".
The Right to Be Forgotten can be interpreted in various ways by courts throughout Europe.
He spent six months in jail but his crime will now be omitted from Google's search engine.
"At the heart of these cases is the simple question of whether a person's online past should be allowed to follow them around forever - the Court's decision is essential reading in understanding how the "right to be forgotten" operates", said Nick McAleenan, a partner in media and data privacy law at JMW Solicitors.
The judges said the right to privacy should prevail after laying down a series of benchmarks including impact on work and family life that dictated whether results should be easily available. He had asked for the deletion of three search results which mentioned his conviction.
"Given his family situation, the loss of his job would cause him a very serious prejudice, especially given that it took him almost two years to find a new job", the judges said.
But the move has sparked concerns about news stories and other previously public information being hidden. Permission to appeal was granted in his case.