Exclusive Ten days after Google lost a Right To Be Forgotten judgment in London's High Court, one of the search results the judge ordered the search giant to delete was still online – until The Register asked Mountain View what it was doing there.
The result in question came up when the real name of NT2, the businessman who successfully sued Google under the Data Protection Act 1998 for misuse of private information, was entered into Google Search.
The search showed a snippet of, and a link to, a news story from the early part of this century written at the time that NT2 was found guilty of a criminal offence (conspiracy to intercept communications) while he was running "a controversial business that was the subject of public opposition over its practices".
We are banned from telling you who NT2 is, or giving any more details about either his business or his conviction, by a court-imposed reporting restriction order.
Test searches carried out by The Register using a variety of device types, operating systems (Windows, iOS, Android), browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Safari) and connection methods (wired/Wi-Fi/4G) all returned the same result – until late last night.
The Register has confirmed with the High Court that the delisting order was made against Google on Friday 13 April, the same day that the judgment was handed down by trial judge Mr Justice Warby. We understand that the terms of the order gave Google seven days to comply and told it to remove the offending result from display to searchers in the UK, the EU or the European Free Trade Area.
Other Google search results linking to news reports from the time of NT2's conviction have since begun appearing prominently on searches for the businessman's name.
On the face of it, this put Google into direct conflict with the High Court. Not doing something set out in a court judgment or order is normally regarded as contempt of court, a serious matter that can lead to fines – or even prison time for individuals. Immediately going ahead and doing the thing ordered by the court (in this case deleting the search result) is normally enough to "purge the contempt", in the legal jargon.
Google strenuously denied yesterday that the offending search result (known to El Reg through the terms of the reporting restriction order) was wrongly displayed, telling us that it had complied with the order – but then Google quietly deleted it overnight without saying a word. The advertising technology company has repeatedly declined to comment on the record.
We have also asked law firm Carter-Ruck, NT2's solicitors, to comment. They politely declined. ®