Right To Be Forgotten – Part One Million and Eleventy. Good news for Crooks?

Right To Be Forgotten – Part One Million and Eleventy. Good news for Crooks?

The phrase “The Right to be Forgotten” most usually refers to the European Courts’ series of decisions culminating with the May 2014 Ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The problem with the phrase is its inaccuracy. There is not any Right to be Forgotten, and the Court in Brussels has not created one.

What it has done, most controversially, was rule that Data Controllers [of which the largest is Google] should not maintain links to websites which give information which “permits identification of data subjects for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data was collected ……”

So that if a newspaper in 1976 publishes that Master John Smith has been convicted of theft from the school tuck shop, it might be “unnecessary” for Google in 2016 to maintain a link to that article and thereby cause embarrassment for Mr John Smith – now a respected business man – applying for membership of a London Club, or whatever.

Above all, the directive does not require that all prints of the 1976 newspaper should be tracked down and burnt. So there will still be a copy on the newspaper’s archives. But without the Google link, it will be much harder to find.

Perhaps the Court thought its ruling would lead back to the situation before the internet; where the really important stuff would still be remembered, but where records of silly misbehaviour could gradually be allowed to fade away.

I think that the British House of Lords was to be applauded for its report link here in which it described the decision as variously “unworkable” and “wrong in principle” and also that in its subsequent treatment of the Court ruling the Council of Europe is “Profoundly in Error”. Which is to say, that the Council being faced with the Court’s clear interpretation of the Law as it then stood, should have immediately set about changing the Law to something sensible.

Hopefully after a Brexit the British Government can implement the various recommendations of the House of Lords report.

But don’t hold your breath. The likelihood is, it will not and will instead move further in the other direction, if the recent report of Companies House is any indicator.

Companies House is an arm of Government, being an Executive Agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills until June 2016. Now of course as we all know, it is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. [George Orwell, where are you now. Ministry of Love, anyone?]

It appears that Companies House has received around 2200 complaints since 2014 from persons whose records on the database show that they were Directors of Companies which went into Dissolution or Administration or Liquidation. Their complaint is that to maintain this information on the Database is to show them in a bad light which is not deserved.

It is of course true that Companies can fail for market reasons which do not involve any particular bad judgement, still less dishonesty.

And Companies can outlive their purpose. Sometimes the Directors just stop, and decide to do something else.

However, given that there are well over two and a half million Companies either dissolved, in dissolution or in insolvency on the present records and most of them will have had several Directors, it seems to me that 2200 complaints is a trivial number and should be too trivial for Companies House to take notice of.

And yet in its report – link here – the news is given that it will “Look Again” at the question of how data is handled, relating to dissolved Companies.

The suggestion, according to most Newspapers, is that what is being considered is a blanket cut off – deletion – of information once a Company has been in dissolution for six years.

May I ask, to what advantage? Unlike the “Right to Forget” which is about deleting the Google Links to the information, this proposal is about deleting the actual information itself. From a Public Registry. With not the slightest attempt to distinguish between the behaviour of honest Directors, and those many fraudsters and crooks and incompetents whose names certainly lurk in this data.

There is no suggestion that the names of Directors who have traded their Companies into failure and done so time after time, should be excluded from deletion.

What is the balance of benefit here? Six years on and the record is clear? Really? [Oh the war’s been over a long time, let’s forgive and forget, all friends now aren’t we]

Where is the public interest in that? And where indeed is the National Interest? If Brexit is really happening, the Country relies more than ever upon being perceived around the world as the place where honest business can be done, where everything is open, transparent, free from bribery and graft and con men and predators in business suits.

So leave the Companies House registers alone, would be my view. What do you think? There is to be a Public Consultation, apparently. Hopefully, Google will be allowed to have a link to it. Or we might just be forced to forget all about it.

Cue for a memorable song don’t you forget about me

And on the subject of not forgetting, please do remember to call me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary whenever you have business documentation for foreign countries. Our number, 0113 8160116, and emails to notary@atkinsonnotary.com. Website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com