High Court reserves judgment on 'right to be forgotten' case

High Court reserves judgment on 'right to be forgotten' case

The High Court has reserved judgment on an appeal by the Data Protection Commissioner and Google over a finding in favour of a man in the first “right to be forgotten” case here concerning internet postings, writes Ann O'Loughlin of the Irish Examiner.

The three-day hearing of the appeal against a Circuit Court ruling in favour of Mark Savage concluded today before Mr Justice Michael White.

The judge said he was reserving judgment and expected to deliver it in the autumn.

Mr Savage, Lios Cian, Swords, a former Independent candidate in the 2014 local elections in north Co Dublin, won orders from the Circuit Court last October he was entitled to have information posted about him on Reddit removed by Google.

He objects to a thread on Reeddit describing him as “Mark Savage - North County Dublins (sic) homophobic candidate”.

That arose from election leaflets handed out during his campaign referring to “gay perverts cavorting en flagrante on the beach on broad daylight”. The leaflet contended the “hedonistic” activity of “cruisin (sic) ” on Donabate beach denigrates the institution of marriage.

In postings responding to what was said on Reddit, Mr Savage argued being “disgusted” by gays is very different to hating them and objected to the term “homophobic”.

After Google refused his requests to re-index the thread, he complained to the Data Protection Commissioner who rejected the complaint on grounds an internet user seeking out information on the local elections is unlikely to consult an online discussion forum as a source of verified facts.

In granting his appeal against the Commissioner’s finding, Circuit Court Judge Elma Sheehan said she considered it likely internet users would consult online discussion forums such as Reddit as a source of verified facts and ruled Mr Savage’s fundamental rights and legitimate interests were prejudiced.

In their High Court appeal, both the Commissioner and Google argue the Circuit Court judge made errors of law in her findings. Mr Savage disputed that and maintained the findings should stand.

The case involves interpretation of the Data Protection Acts and of several legal decisions, including the 2014 Google Spain case which established the “right to be forgotten” – where a person can seek to have personal data held by a third party web page delisted from a data controller’s search engine.

Cian Ferriter SC, for Google, argued the Circuit Court findings meant search engines would have to review billions of searches daily to decide if quotation marks must, as the Circuit Court required, be placed around posts considered to be “opinion” rather than fact.


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