NT1 & NT2 v Google LLC [2018] EWHC 799 (QB)

Document type
Court Decision

This is a key decision on the application of the CJEU judgement in Google Spain. The case combines two nominative deindexing claims against Google Search. The first one (NT1 - claimants were anonymised), was raised by a businessman who was convicted of conspiracy to falsely account in the late 90s. His conviction was spent in 2014, on the basis of the amended Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Consequently, he requested that Google remove specific links leading to online sources reporting on his conviction. The second claimant (NT2) was also a businessman, who was convicted of using phone and telephone hacking to trace individuals seeking to disrupt his business. His conviction was spent in 2014 in a manner similar to NT1's, and he made a similar request to Google. Google refused to delist the search results in both cases.

In disputing Google's decision, the claimants sought to rely on the Data Protection Act 1998 and the tort of misuse of private information. Google unsuccessfully claimed abuse of process (based on bypassing defamation laws) and the journalistic exemption in the DP Act (s. 32).

The data protection law claim, built around the notion that processing of the indicated personal data goes against the data protection principles, played the key role in proceedings. Regarding the claim that data was inaccurate (and requiring correction), it was successful only in NT2's case, where one of the reports exaggerated his conviction.

Regarding the key, removal/delisting oriented claim, the judge applied the rights balancing test laid out in Google Spain and supported it with the use of Article 29 Working Party criteria for assessing such requests. This led to the delisting order in NT2's case, and a lack of thereof for NT1, who was granted permission to appeal. It is important to note that the fact of conviction being spent is an important factor in the balancing exercise, but not an absolute one. No damages were ordered, as the defence from art. 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 was applied. The findings made in relation to the data protection claim were cross-applied to the tort of misuse of private information.

Topic, claim, or defense
Privacy or Data Protection
Right to Be Forgotten
Document type
Court Decision
Issuing entity
Lowest Domestic Court
Type of service provider
Search Engine or Index
Issues addressed
Trigger for OSP obligations
Procedural Protections for Users and Publishers
OSP obligation considered
Block or Remove
Type of liability
Type of law
General effect on immunity
Strengthens Immunity
Weakens Immunity
General intermediary liability model
No Safe Harbor or Immunity