10:00AM, Wednesday 27 January 2016
Google has stood by its decision to hide a link to a Windsor Express story about a benefit cheat who received more than £23,000 in overpayments.
The search engine giant has removed the story from certain searches for Tracy Asbery, who admitted claiming housing benefits despite having £26,200 in an undeclared savings account when her case went before magistrates in November 2011.
The link was removed from search results under the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ rule, introduced in May 2014 after a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which gave individuals the right to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them if they are ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive’.
The Express was notified earlier this month that searches for the link had been removed, but no details were given about why the decision was made or who asked for the link to be removed due to ‘privacy concerns’. The link was only taken down from search results and remains live on our website.
We asked Google to revisit its decision, but we were notified on Friday, with no explanation, that it stood by the removal.
The Express objects strongly to the removal of this story from search results, and sees a clear public interest in it remaining a visible part of Google’s search results.
The story, originally published on December 7, 2011, is less than five years old and involves an individual dishonestly claiming thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Asbery, who was 43 and lived in Wyatt Road, Windsor, at the time the story was published, pleaded guilty to two offences of failing to tell the Royal Borough about her savings account.
She was told to pay compensation of £5,000, costs of £300 and was given a three-year conditional discharge.
The Express cannot see why this story would be considered ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive’ and, given it is a relatively recent case and involves a large sum of money, we believe it is vital that the public can continue to easily access this information.
Express editor Martin Trepte said: “It is disturbing that a legal precedent has been set that allows searches to be removed, without any explanation, to an article about a conviction following a guilty plea in open court.
“One of the key principles behind newspapers being allowed to report the courts is that in a free society justice must be seen to be done.
“To remove a search is the digital equivalent of trying to cut a story out of a newspaper archive – an attempt to excise history.
“Google has faced hundreds of thousands of ‘right to be forgotten’ requests since this ruling, demonstrating the huge impact on open justice and press freedom this decision has had.
“We remain disappointed with Google’s refusal to revisit this decision, as we believe it does not meet any of the criteria for removal.
“There is a balance to be struck with individual privacy but where criminal convictions are concerned the public’s right to know must be put first.”
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