Censorship U-turn not a moment too soon

29th July 2014

As Google backs down in the row over a person's 'right to be forgotten', Higgs & Sons says the U-turn hasn't come a moment too soon.

According to Kate Legg, a member of the commercial law team at Higgs, had the search engine giant continued to strip information, images and links from its web pages, it would have changed the face of the internet for ever.

Following the EU ruling back in May, Google was receiving 1,000 requests a day from people - including politicians, celebrities and criminals - to airbrush their lives and remove personal information from search results.

As Google dramatically backed down and started re-instating links to news stories, the government this week insisted that there is no such thing as the 'right to be forgotten' online.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes told members of the House of Lords Home Affairs Committee that it was unacceptable for people to try to have criminal convictions deleted. He likened the EU ruling to Communist China which has been criticised for blocking the right to information.

Kate, who specialises in all aspects of commercial law at Higgs, including Data Protection, says: "Under the new EU rules, Google was having to balance an individual's application to be unlinked from specific data against the wider public interest to keep the link in place. 

"The problem was, with such a huge number of applications to consider, it was always likely that Google would simply accept the request without giving due consideration to the public interest test.

"It was a huge ask for search engines to have to make that decision on whether to un-link data. 

"It is also worth noting that the new ruling only applies to Europeans - there is no equivalent data protection law in for example, the United States.  And because the search engines were under no obligation to delete the personal information from the internet, the data remained in the public domain - it simply didn't appear in those search results returned by Google.

"Which meant that effectively, search engines were being forced to stop doing the very task that they were designed to do!

"Fortunately though, it looks as though common sense prevailed before significant changes were brought to the landscape of cyberspace for ever."

Higgs & Sons employs more than 200 people, including more than 100 specialist lawyers, at its office on the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill.


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