Anonymity and the right to be forgotten by Google

1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NT1 and NT2 and Google LLC [2018] EWHC 799 (QB) 

Two businessmen (NT1 and NT2) brought unrelated claims to the High Court about their rights to be forgotten by Google. Both claimants had spent convictions and, having had their requests for the removal of related search results by Google refused, they resorted to legal action. NT1’s claim failed but NT2’s succeeded.


NT1 had been convicted of conspiracy to falsely account and was sentenced to 4 years. In relation to his privacy rights, the court said that the information about his conviction was public. He had been relatively well known at the time and was still a businessman. He had not demonstrated that the availability of the information had much impact on his business or family life. He had not accepted his guilt and people whom he did business had a right to know about his past.

NT2 was convicted of conspiracy to intercept communications and was sentenced to six months. The court noted that he had showed remorse, there is no sign that the wrongdoing would be repeated, the information was irrelevant to his current business activity  and that ‘the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability’ (paragraph 223).

In the Google Spain case in 2014, the CECJ that ruled that irrelevant and outdated data should be erased on request. A balance has to be struck between the legitimate interests of internet users in having access to the information, and the data subject’s Article 8 rights. The current case confirmed that those interests were of equal weight.


Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing NT1, told the high court ‘before anyone meets a new person these days they Google them’. He added that many people engaged in misdeeds when they were young and if the misdeeds were constantly brought to the attention of others then they would permanently have a negative effect. This case demonstrates that one has a right to be forgotten and thereby calls in to question the position that the anonymity of those who offend as children should expire once they turn 18.

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