EU Right to Be Forgotten: One year on.


Google has processed 253,617 data removal requests over the past 12 months

- but approved just over 40% of those


On 13 May 2014 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made a ground breaking decision against online global giant Google. A Spanish citizen had wanted a newspaper article about his insolvency to be 'forgotten' by Google and no longer listed on their search engine. The ECJ held that Google, as not only a search engine but as a 'controller' of personal data, were subject to EU data protection rules, meaning individuals had the right to ask them to stop linking to material that could be deemed 'inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive'.

 

Dina Shiloh, a Solicitor at Mishcon de Reya who specialises in media law, commented on the impact this decision has made during the last year:

 

"In principle, the decision last May demonstrated that Europeans have the right to control their own data and how it is processed. The decision showed that in Europe, privacy is not dead. Google can no longer argue that it is a neutral 'wall' with no responsibility to the content it links to.

 

In the past year, Google estimates it has processed 252,250 'right to be forgotten' requests. It has agreed to remove 41% of these. Individuals are increasingly applying to remove links to information about them - the ECJ ruling has had a real impact.  

 

"However, the situation is far from simple. For example, if Google.com – where the US version of Google is hosted – is searched, the articles that have been 'forgotten' by Google in Europe can still be found. Also, the ECJ's decision that Google should not link to 'inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive' material is incredibly broad: we are still struggling to define those terms. In addition, anyone in the public eye may find it difficult to argue information about them is irrelevant- again, 'the public eye' is not an easy thing to define.

 

"Finally, even if requests are granted, the fact remains that those same articles are still available online, on the sites where they were originally published, whether Google links to them or not. The 'right to be forgotten' is not absolute."