Google removes links to ‘Irish Times’ report

European court decision results in 135,000 requests to be ‘forgotten’

Google has declined to say how many requests for the removal of links have been received from residents in Ireland.

Google has declined to say how many requests for the removal of links have been received from residents in Ireland.

 

Google has removed links to an ‘Irish Times’ report on a Dutch teenager who was detained by German police this summer while en route to Syria.

It is the first article from the newspaper’s archive to be affected by the recent European ruling on the “right to be forgotten”.

Google notified The Irish Times in recent days that, “due to a request under data protection law in Europe”, it was no longer able to show one or more pages from irishtimes.com in its search results in response to queries for names or other personal identifiers.

The affected article, ‘Parents warned after girl (15) tries to join jihadists’, published on July 4th, reported that a Dutch citizen was detained by police at Dusseldorf airport, en route to Turkey and then Syria, with a group of four other girls, all under 18. The girl had previously been reported missing by her family after they found a note saying she was travelling to Syria and didn’t want them to worry.

The 15-year-old, whose first name was reported, was stopped by German police before boarding a flight after a tip-off from the Dutch security service. She was not being treated as a suspect, a police spokesman said.

The article also quoted the director of a charitable foundation, who warned the parents of Muslim teenagers who wanted to travel to Syria that they may have to confiscate their children’s smartphones to prevent them contacting would-be jihadists through social media.

In its notification, Google said that in many cases, the affected queries do not relate to the name of any person mentioned prominently on the relevant page. “For example, in some cases, the name may appear only in a comment section,” it said. The Irish Times article remains online and still appears on Google in response to a number of search queries.

The removal of links follows a European Court of Justice ruling that internet companies can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search engine results.

The case was taken by a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.

The decision means Google, which processes more than 90 per cent of all web searches in Europe, can be required to remove data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed,” said judges at the Luxembourg court.

Google, which dislikes the ruling, says that when evaluating requests, it considers whether the results include outdated information about a person, and whether there is a public interest in the information, such as in cases of professional malpractice, criminal convictions and the public conduct of officials.

Publishers have no right of appeal against link deletions, but each removal notification contains a link that allows webmasters to provide “additional information regarding this content that might result in a reversal or other change to this removal action.”

A spokeswoman for Google Ireland said: “We don’t guarantee a response but we do want to hear both sides of the story as it helps us make the right decisions.”

The web giant has received more than 135,000 requests for the removal of links since the European court’s landmark decision in May.