Kevin contacted our helpline as he needed some help applying to a website to request the removal of a story about himself which included details of a conviction that is now spent.
Kevin told us that over the course of a year, he had made approximately three or four requests to the organisation to remove the story. He told us that some of the information relating to him was inaccurate but there was also a lot of other incorrect personal information which concerned other members of his family. At the same time as making the requests to the organisation, Kevin had also applied to Google to have links to the story removed. Every application he had made had been refused.
Kevin had assumed that over time, the article would be buried under other internet content but this hadn’t been the case and his name appeared in the top three of the list when anybody searched for him. Kevin was keen to find out from us what else he could do to get the story taken down.
We explained to Kevin that getting articles removed from a media source can be difficult as organisations will often use ‘public interest’ as a reason to keep a story online. The organisation that Kevin was dealing with had a policy which stated that it would ‘not remove any article from its digital archive, any more than it would remove anything from its hard copy archive’.
We advised Kevin that any report which contained inaccurate or misleading information should be amended and that he should write to the organisation to specifically request that the information be changed. If this was refused, then Kevin should make a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation or the Information Commissioners Office.
As it is often difficult to get organisations to remove stories completely, we advised Kevin to apply again to Google to have the search links removed. We provided him with a copy of our search engine removal request template which sets out the pertinent information that applicants should include in any request, in particular, why the search result is ‘irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate’.
We suggested that if Google refused his application again then Kevin make a formal complaint to the Information Commissioners Officer who are in the process of looking for ‘evidence of damage and distress to individuals’ caused by Google’s (and other search engines) refusal to remove search links.
Kevin contacted us a couple of weeks later to let us know that following a further request to Google, they had agreed to remove the links to his name.
Although ideally I would have liked the story removed from the site altogether this is the next best thing.
This case highlights how difficult it can be to get media organisations to completely remove stories from their websites. However, the next best thing is to make an approach to the search engine provider (for example Google) and ask them to remove any links to your name. This means that unless somebody has the details of the website on which your name appears, they will not be able to find anything about you by simply searching on your name.
Notes about this case study
This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.