File picture of Sean Quinn Senior arriving at the High Court in 2012. Members of the former billionaire’s family have succeeded in having ‘Irish Examiner’ articles removed from Google search results. However, such articles can still be accessed on this site. See links below. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews
The family of former billionaire Sean Quinn has succeeded in having 55 items published by the Irish Examiner removed by Google’s search service.
The delisting of those published items from the search engine follows a concerted effort on the part of the family to have mentions of various court cases they have been involved in, and some separate coverage of their activities, delisted by Google.
The tranche of delisted web items includes 26 articles, dating from 2012 to 2019, many of which concern the Quinn family’s struggles in the High Court with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the State-owned entity which emerged from the rubble of bust lender Anglo Irish Bank.
The delistings were granted by Google during September and October, though it isn’t known who made the requests or when they were lodged.
Such delistings stem from a landmark decision by the European Court of Justice in 2014 in a case involving Google Spain, which instituted the so-called Right to be Forgotten in EU law.
The Right to be Forgotten applies to all search engines and is primarily designed to aid requesters in having out-of-date or now-irrelevant information, such as reports concerning spent convictions pertaining to them, removed from internet searches.
The regime has come in for a deal of criticism due to a perceived lack of transparency as to how decisions are made regarding what gets delisted and why.
The stories delisted from the search engine include the following which can still be read online both on the Irish Examiner’s website and ePaper:
Aoife Quinn has no receipts for €370,000 spend in 1 year;
Quinn expenses to continue from frozen accounts;
Quinns devised ‘largest, most devious’ scheme to protect assets.
The articles concern the family of Sean Quinn — once Ireland’s richest man — who was jailed for contempt of court during his legal battle with IBRC in late 2012.
While Google notifies all parties who have had content on their sites delisted from searches, in order for the context to be noted, the relevant administrator email address for each site would have to be actively monitored.
Fundamentally, while the articles and imagery in question remain online, they will become a great deal more difficult to find via a simple search.
The Irish Independent said earlier this week that dozens of its articles covering the Quinns had been delisted by Google. Meanwhile, The Irish Times noted that 74 web items on its site had also been removed from Google searches.
Privacy advocate and associate professor with the school of law in UCD, TJ McIntyre, said it was “entirely fair” to suggest that a public interest argument is not necessarily matched by the decision to delist the various Quinn stories, and that such ‘public interest’ decisions being made by a private entity such as Google is not an ideal situation.
“The idea of search engine delisting isn’t regulated by legislation or law, but rather stems from a number of judgements made by the Court of Justice,” he said. It is not possible to appeal a Right to be Forgotten delisting once it has happened.
“One reason this is a concerning area is that we don’t know why these decisions are being made,” Prof McIntyre said.
He suggested that it would be “desirable” if an “audit” of how Right to be Forgotten operates in an Irish context were to be undertaken by the Data Protection Commission.
“This is a real challenge for the media,” he said.
“We don’t have any real idea as to how this works in practice, but if there is any transparency it is through the fact the media is being notified, whether it knows it or not.”
It is understood that Google is not under any obligation to notify publishers regarding its delistings, but has elected to do so — there is no guarantee that such notifications will continue into the future.
While the legality of those notifications is subject to court challenges in certain other European countries, no such legal battles are before the courts in Ireland. That may change after the events of this week.
Google did not welcome the right to be forgotten, but we have worked hard to implement it in line with guidance from EU courts and regulators,” a Google spokesperson said.
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