Google was forced to remove outdated search results about a Dutch surgeon’s medical suspension in a landmark EU “right to be forgotten” case, The Guardian reported Monday.
The doctor’s name showed up in an unofficial blacklist about medical negligence after she was suspended over post-operative care of a patient, according to the UK newspaper. Her punishment was later reduced to a conditional suspension — allowing her to continue to practice — after she successfully appealed the case.
However, an Amsterdam district court heard that a Google search for the surgeon’s name still brought people to the unofficial blacklist, which apparently resulted in potential patients discussing her case in a web forum. The surgeon argued that this was “digital pillory,” or shaming her online for a past event.
Google and the Dutch Data Protection Authority (known locally as Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) at first rejected the surgeon’s request since she was still on probation, but the district court overturned the ruling in July.
The ruling was made public after a recent disagreement over whether the judgment should be published, The Guardian noted. In the months since the ruling, the surgeon’s lawyer, Willem van Lynden, said he tried to get 15 doctors who’d been involved in minor disciplinary action removed from the blacklist and was successful in half of these cases.
Last week, an EU Court of Justice legal adviser recommended that Google should only have to remove links about European citizens from search results in the European Union, not the whole internet, under the “right to be forgotten” rules.
The Dutch Data Protection Authority said in an email to CNET that it couldn’t comment on the case.
“We cannot give any comment on this specific case, since it was the verdict of a Dutch court of law. We will look into this verdict,” the authority said.