Google has been ordered to remove nine links to news stories by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under the “right to be forgotten”.
Details of a “minor criminal offence” were referenced in the stories regarding an individual, the ICO said.
Earlier links about the case had already been removed – but this act of removal itself later became news.
It is the links to those new articles, when searched for via the individual’s name, which must now be removed.
In a statement, the ICO revealed that Google had refused to remove the linkswhen asked by the complainant, which is why officials are now stepping in.
Being able to access the links by searching for the complainant by name constitutes a breach of the Data Protection Act, according to the ICO.
“Let’s be clear. We understand that links being removed as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write about,” said deputy commissioner David Smith.
“And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories through search engines like Google.
“But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant’s name.”
The ICO says that Google must remove the links within 35 days of the order, dated 18 August.
Google has so far declined to comment.
The situation was described as a “messy compromise” by Ian Walden, professor of information and communications law at Queen Mary, University of London.
“You can search under ‘right to be forgotten’, ‘takedown’, and you can look at the whole discussion about whether it’s being taken down,” he told the BBC, “but if you search the individual’s name you should get a different set of search results.”
Dr Walden added that as the complexity of removal requests grows, it’s possible that search engines like Google may become less willing to challenge them.
“In five years’ time perhaps Google will say, ‘It’s not worth the hassle, let’s take down more stuff, let’s not spend as much time evaluating the case,’ – they obviously have to employ people for this,” he said.
“My concern is it [will become] easier and easier to get stuff taken down when in fact there continues to be a balancing act that needs to be carried out,” he said.