EU versus Google and the “Right to Be Forgotten”

Written by | Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Google could be made to remove links to news stories about the individuals from its own search results, according to yesterday’s ruling (13 May) by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), supporting the EU’s idea of a “right to be forgotten”. Judges said that Google and other internet search engine providers were responsible for processing personal data publicized on web sites of third parties, such as newspapers or blogs. The decision must be considered and taken into account by national courts throughout the EU28. Even if the publication of such information on those pages is not illegal, the search engines could be still compelled by national regulators to do away with the links in case data was against EU privacy law. The ECJ commented that some links could even be rendered incompatible with EU privacy law overtime although the initial processing of the data may have been lawful.
The EU’s “right to be forgotten” makes it possible for people to request web companies to get rid of personal information on their servers, which is also part of a 2012 European Commission proposal to review EU privacy law. The law was adopted by the European Parliament and is now to be scrutinized by EU Member States. Judges added that if there was a significant public interest in having a particular set of data kept available, such as when the person involved is a public figure, national courts would be allowed to reject a request to do away with such a link. The ECJ also said that the effect of the interference with the person’s rights was elevated on account of the important role played by the internet and search engines in modern society.

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