NEWS14 May 2014

Europe’s Court of Justice backs ‘right to be forgotten’

Europe Legal News

LUXEMBOURG — The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that individuals have the right to request search engines remove links to information about them – essentially granting a “right to be forgotten”.


The court decided that “irrelevant” or outdated information about a person should be removed from search results tied to their name, at their request.

It follows a complaint brought by a Spanish national, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who sought to prevent references to previously resolved legal proceedings from appearing when searches were made of his name.

The source of the information was a report in the newspaper La Vanguardia. Spain’s data protection agency, AEPD, refused Costeja Gonzalez’s request to force a takedown of the La Vanguardia story, arguing that it had been published lawfully. However, the agency did uphold the complaint against Google Spain and Google Inc.

Google brought an appeal to the High Court of Spain, which in turn referred a series of questions to the Court of Justice.

The European court found that, “by searching automatically, constantly and systematically for information published on the internet, the operator of a search engine ‘collects’ data within the meaning of the [European data protection] directive”. As such, it could be considered a data controller, and subject to the same rules as all other companies that handle personal data.

In a statement accompanying the ruling, the court noted that: “In response to the question whether the directive enables the data subject to request that links to web pages be removed from such a list of results on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him personally to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time, the court holds that, if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased.”

The court did say that a fair balance should be sought, in particular between the “legitimate interest of internet users” and “the data subject’s fundamental rights” – however, the court also noted that the rights of the individual are paramount, except when it comes to information about people in public life or public office.

European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding, who has long championed the “right to be forgotten”, said the court ruling was “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans”.

“Today’s judgement is strong tailwind for the data protection reform that the European Commission proposed in January 2012 as it confirms the main pillars of what we have inscribed in the data protection regulation,” she said, adding: “Big data needs big rights.”


1 Comment

10 years ago

The “Right to be Forgotten” needs to be protected in the fast growing exhibitionist tendency of modern youth. Social media provide the arena to vent out this urge. Personal glorification, overweening pride, consuming ambition, exhibitionism, intolerant smugness, money or power madness, refusal to admit mistakes and learning from mistakes, self-satisfaction, lazy complacency - these are the cardinal characteristics of media ‘socializers’. As there is no ban on the written or video clips, people with voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behavior saunter in the social media circles. Even introverts who hide from the society come up with perverted attempts at positioning themselves in the social media. Because of this unfortunate setup most of the times, genuineness and truth are forgotten or neglected. Sensation journalism has found new vistas through social media. This court ruling was “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans”. It will be a great relief if other countries also follow suit.

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