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‘Right to be forgotten’ used to force Google to remove medical negligence link

‘Right to be forgotten’ used to force Google to remove medical negligence link


A Dutch surgeon has had a link about her medical suspension removed

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A circle of 12 gold stars representing the European Union.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amsterdam’s district court has forced Google to remove search results relating to a Dutch surgeon’s past medical suspension, reports The Guardian. The original suspension was later reduced to a conditional suspension on appeal, but the outdated information was still present in Google’s search results. The ruling is thought to be the first time a search result relating to medical negligence has been removed in the almost five years since the EU first established its citizens’ “right to be forgotten.”

At issue were links to a website that contains an unofficial blacklist of suspended doctors. The Dutch surgeon in question previously had her medical registration suspended, but this was later changed to a conditional suspension (meaning she could still practice) after a successful appeal. The judge took issue with the way Google’s search results still returned a link to the outdated information on this unofficial blacklist site, which suggested that she shouldn’t be treating people in her capacity as a doctor.

The surgeon’s lawyer has requested 15 more removals since the ruling

Google and the Dutch data privacy watchdog, Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens, initially rejected the request on the grounds that the surgeon’s continued probation meant that the search results were still relevant, but this decision was overturned last July by the district court.The ruling has only come to light now due to a dispute about whether the ruling should be made public. Since then, the surgeon’s lawyer has sought the removal of 15 more doctors from this blacklist.

The EU’s “right to be forgotten” was first established in May 2014 and since then has resulted in the removal of just over one million URLs from Google’s search results. Google categorises most of the links removed as belonging to “miscellaneous” sites, but according to its October 2018 transparency report, almost 19 percent are from news sites, 17.3 percent are from directory sites, and 11.6 percent are from social media. Facebook is the single most popular site with 20,000 of its URLs delisted since 2014.