MPs tell Google to block privacy-breaking searches

Houses of Parliament

A cross party committee of MPs have called out Google for enabling injunctions to be broken and not implementing the possible technologies to prevent repeat cases of the same breach.

A report from the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions released today slammed the search engine and said it was willing to pursue legislation to force the company to take action.

The committee began to look at the role of injunctions and the part online firms could play in July 2011, following Ryan Giggs taking out an injunction to stop Imogen Thomas from selling her story about their affair to the newspapers.

The print press complained they had to uphold "judge-made law" by not publishing the story, whilst many were breaking the ruling on websites like Twitter and even in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege, neither with consequences.

"If injunctions are to provide adequate protection, it is essential that there are no avoidable barriers to their enforcement," read the report from the committee.

"The Giggs case, and other cases, demonstrate that steps should be taken to limit the capacity for online breaches."

Social network sympathy

The committee claimed the likes of Twitter removed the "gatekeeper" role from publishers and allowed everyone to voice their opinions and have their own take on privacy. Although the benefits of this could be seen in the likes of the Arab Spring, the negatives were seen in the direct flouting of UK law.

However, it stated both Twitter and Facebook were willing to give the identity of users breaking the law to UK officials, if presented with a valid court order.

"The internet is not, therefore, ungoverned by the law, or without enforcement options," it added.

The report called on the Attorney General to use his powers more to go after those flouting injunctions online, but going through the civil courts instead.

"We believe the Attorney General should be more willing to exercise his power as Guardian of the Public Interest to bring actions for civil contempt of court in respect of breaches of injunctions online," it read.

"The threshold for him intervening should be lower [as] such action would provide a strong deterrent against future such breaches."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.