Eva Pander Maat, ‘The Right to Be Forgotten in the UK: A Case Note on the English and Welsh High Court Reasoning in NT1 and NT2 v Google and the Post-Brexit Prospects in the GDPR era’

ABSTRACT
The joined cases NT1 and NT2 present the first claim before the High Court of England and Wales (the Court) on the right to be forgotten, established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the seminal Google Spain case. Both claimants, NT1 and NT2, had submitted a request for the de-listing of search results related to their prior criminal convictions. This case note considers how the Court was therefore faced with the question how to strike a balance between, on the one hand, the right to privacy, and, on the other hand, the publicity of criminal trials. In deciding upon this question, the Court notably weighed both EU and national law sources. It considered three main criteria: the nature of the offence, the public interest in the disclosure of the information concerned, and the rehabilitation of the claimant. This case note argues that the opposing conclusions reached in either of the joined cases are exemplary of the way these three criteria are embedded in the broader common law understanding of privacy and the concept of rehabilitation after criminal convictions. As regards the first criterion, on the nature of the offence, the joined cases suggest that if the offence does not involve dishonesty or is old and ‘not serious’, there is a greater chance that the Court does not consider it necessary for the information to remain public. As regards second criterion, on the public interest, it appears that if the claimant is active in public life in a manner related to the offences, this enhances the public interest in the information. Regarding the third criterion, on rehabilitation, it appears that the Court attaches great value to the concept of remorse for past convictions. The case note embeds these judicial considerations in the emphasis on ‘privileged principles of open justice’ in the English and Welsh common law jurisdiction, which have inhibited the post-war revolt to develop a strong right to privacy in civil law jurisdictions on the European continent. Finally, the case note reflects on post-Brexit data protection standards in England and Wales. Whilst assessing that courts will not be able to easily dismiss the relevance of CJEU case law on data protection, the case note identifies several stumbling blocks to lasting EU-UK equivalence on data protection laws and concludes that if anything, Brexit will diminish legal certainty for citizens and data subjects in England and Wales.

Eva Pander Maat, The Right to Be Forgotten in the UK: A Case Note on the English and Welsh High Court Reasoning in NT1 and NT2 v Google and the Post-Brexit Prospects in the GDPR era, European Review of Private Law, volume 30, issue 2 (2022) pp 263-290.

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