Data authority receives 20 privacy queries

Requests follow European Court of Justice ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

Up to 20 people have approached the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) about having information about them removed from the internet following a landmark court ruling last week.

The DPC has been receiving the requests since last Tuesday when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) backed the so called “right to be forgotten”.

The court was ruling on a test case brought by a Spanish man who was seeking to have links to an online newspaper story removed from Google’s search results.

Mario Costeja González brought Google Spain to court after it refused to delete links to information relating to the repossession of his home in 1998.

Ruling in Mr Costeja González's favour, the ECJ said Google should remove "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" data from its results at the request of a member of the public. This will apply even when the information is completely accurate.

The judgment, which cannot be appealed, appears to suggest that national data protection regulators should be in charge of deciding what information should be removed.

A spokeswoman for Google Ireland said it had received more than 1,000 "right to be forgotten" requests from across Europe but there is no breakdown available for how many came from Ireland.

The company has called the ECJ decision “disappointing” and is now working on an automated tool which will allow internet users to request links to be taken down.

The office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has confirmed it has so far received nearly 20 queries from the public about having links to information about them removed from the internet.

The commissioner's office also said it has been contacted by Google to discuss the implications of the judgment and how such requests will be processed in future.

A spokeswoman for the DPC said about half of the requests it received relate to people seeking to have links to media reports about them taken down. Most of these queries involved reports on court cases the individual was involved in. The rest of the requests were for general advice on how to go about seeking the removal of links.

The DPC said it believed the judgment suggested that it would be up to search providers to deal with initial requests before it gets involved.

“Our preliminary interpretation of the judgment is that the rights of individuals in relation to data deletion would first have to be asserted by the individual with Google directly, with data protection authorities becoming involved where the individual’s request made to Google in the first instance was not satisfied,” the spokeswoman said.

The judgment is seen as having potentially far-reaching implications for how online data is stored and will significantly increase the workload of the DPC.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times