Google should censor its search results to protect information covered by privacy injunctions, according to UK politicians.
Search engines should remove links to information that has been deemed private by an injunction in the UK courts, the group of MPs and peers said in a report. If necessary a law should be introduced to compel search companies to hide such material, the report by the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions said.
The material should be filtered out of results served to people in the UK, John Whittington, chairman of the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, told TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet UK.
“Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law, and should actively develop and use such technology,” said the report. “We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so, it should be introduced.”
The report goes on to say: “Where an individual has obtained a clear court order that certain material infringes their privacy and so should not be published we do not find it acceptable that he or she should have to return to court repeatedly in order to remove the same material from internet searches.”
The recommendations of the committee are advisory, and the government is under no obligation to follow them.
Google said that it would be unreasonable to expect any search engine to screen its content.
“Requiring search engines to screen the content of their web pages would be like asking phone companies to listen in on every call made across their networks for potentially suspicious activity,” the company said in a statement.
“Google already removes specific pages deemed unlawful by the courts. We have a number of simple tools anyone can use to report such content, which we then remove from our index.”
The committee also recommended that, when granting privacy injunctions, courts should alert the claimant of the need to head off possible breaches online.
“We recommend that, when granting an injunction, courts should be proactive in directing the claimant to serve notice on internet content platforms such as Twitter and Facebook,” it said.
The report was commissioned by the government to look into privacy and free speech after a series of high profile super-injunctions were made public online last year.