How to submit a successful right to be forgotten
The key to success with a right to be forgotten submission is to do whatever you can to make it plausible and as agreeable to the content moderator at Google.
A right to be forgotten submission is an application that an individual may make to internet search engines to have articles with their names delisted from certain search results. A right to be forgotten submission describes the process of applying to Google or to another search engine for the removal of search results from the search engine's index. The right to be forgotten submission does not have to be submitted on Google own form and can instead, be submitted by post or by email to Google's head office. Google asks that you make your right to to be forgotten submission via its online portal but the court has confirmed that this could be made a legal requirement.
A right to be forgotten is a legal document. Google itself calls it ‘Legal Removal Request’. It sets out your legal request to the search engine provider or to content editors to stop processing your personal data.
Every right to be forgotten submission looks easy from the outset. Google makes it look simple and friendly to encourage you to make the submission yourself. This is in line with its undertaking to the ICO, which is to create an accessible platform for individuals to use. Whilst this is very helpful, bear in mind that a right to be forgotten submission is a legal document that you might need to refer to later on in the process.
If there is anything complicated about your right to be forgotten, consider obtaining legal advice.
A right to be forgotten submission is often only the first step in having unwanted content removed from Google and from other search engines. In too many cases, you will need to follow it up with further action. It might be an explanation, clarification, a legal argument or just an effective nudge. In more complex cases, there will already be an autosuggestion appearing on search results, images that link to the articles or other issues that will need to be professionally addressed in order for your right to be forgotten to be effective.
An effective right to be forgotten submission needs to either cause the de-listing of unwanted data from the search engine or form strong foundations for future communications with the search engine provider and/or third parties such as the Information Commissioner’s Office or the court. Often, after you submit a Right to be Forgotten request, the search engine provider will ask you to provide additional information and/or clarifications. This is where it is important to make relevant references to facts, laws and previous decisions to help your request succeed.
If you case ever need to be escalated, your initial submission of the right to be forgotten will form a major part of future action. For this reason alone, you might feel it is important to have your submission drafted professionally by a specialist lawyer.
If you have decided to prepare the right to be forgotten yourself, pay particular attention to the section which is titled "reason for erasure request". This forms the main structure for your right to be forgotten request.
The reality is that there might be two individuals who submit a right to be forgotten request under similar circumstances and who will receive different outcome decisions from Google or Bing. What often makes the difference is what the search engines like to describe as "public interest" exception. This means that in the search engine view, despite all the reasons that exist to have links to articles de-listed (for example an expired criminal conviction), the articles should still be linked to in search results.
On some occasions the search engine decision of what might constitute public interest, appears to been emotionally motivated. For example, people who had been taken to court for sexual offences, and have not been convicted, had their right to be forgotten request to remove news articles about their trial refused. At the same time, those who had been in a similar situations but who faced other type of allegations, for example, theft, had their right to be forgotten request accepted.
Another aspect of the right to be forgotten request that might give rise to a refusal to de-list is the opinion of the Google employee that the individual making the request has not expressed sufficient remorse, that they are dangerous or that they are simply unkind people. Yes, Google employees make those decisions.
Like any other legal document, to stand a higher likelihood of success and for reasons mentioned above, you will most likely want your right to be forgotten request and any subsequent documents to be drafted appropriately.
Each right to be forgotten solicitor in our firm professionally prepares and drafts each right to be forgotten submission. Commonly, there are search engine providers who are too quick to decline requests so we make sure they give reasons so that we can then challenge the search engine using facts and law. Often we draft an a follow up appeal to the search engine provider and/or a substantive appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office and/or a full GDPR Notice, as appropriate in each individual case.
You therefore might want to consider obtaining legal advice from internet lawyers before submitting a right to be forgotten request. The advice will maximise your likelihood of success.