A United Kingdom businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about his criminal conviction in a landmark "right to be forgotten" case that could have wide-ranging repercussions for Google and other search providers.
Judge Mr Justice Mark Warby ruled in favour of NT2 at London's Royal Courts of Justice, based on his having shown remorse, but denied NT1's case, claiming he continued to mislead the public. The same judge who sided with the other businessman ruled in favor of Google in this latter case, particularly because the former's case was less serious and he had, in the opinion of the judge, reformed and shown remorse. He spent six months in jail.
Mr Justice Warby said the businessmen, who can not be named for legal reasons, complained of results returned by Google Search that feature links to third-party reports about their convictions. "His past offending is of little if any relevance", Justice Warby wrote.
The businessman who lost his case to be "delisted" complained about three links returned by Google providing information about his conviction for "conspiracy to account falsely", for which he received a sentence of four years. NT1's conduct demonstrates that "he can not be trusted to provide an accurate account of his business background", the judge wrote.
"The Court will have to balance the public's right to access the historical record, the precise impacts on the person, and the public interest".
They argue that they have a right to be forgotten, but Google bosses disagree. "That held good until the internet and Google's powerful search engine rather undid matters".
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Google had refused to remove the links, leading NT2 and another man known as NT1 to take the company to court.
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 added: "The right to be forgotten litigation requires the courts to once again consider where that balance lies, a question which has implications for us all".
"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. Others, however, expressed concern that the ruling could harm free press and speech rights.
Their lawyers said their claims, which were brought under data protection law and for misuse of private information, were the first of their kind to be made in England.
Google contested the two claims, which were heard in separate High Court trials in London.