The right to be forgotten is a centerpiece of the EU’s privacy laws, intended to protect individuals from having information spread about them online. The right to be forgotten can be used to force Google and other search engines to delete links including personal information considered old, no longer relevant or not in the public interest.
However, on the 24th September 2019, a dispute between Google and a French privacy regulator regarding the right to be forgotten concluded with the EU’s highest court ruling that Google is not required to eliminate search results globally. After this new ruling, Google will solely remove any disputed links from its search results in Europe, keeping the results available to be seen by other users around the world.
This court decision has been controversial, with people for and against it. Why? Keep reading to find out.
What is the right to be forgotten?
Also known as the “right to erasure”, the rule gives EU citizens the power to demand that data about them be deleted.
In the case of search engines, since 2014, EU citizens have had the right to request links to pages containing sensitive personal information to be removed.
Additionally, in 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) added further rights and obligations. Individuals have the right to request any organisation to delete all personal data held about them. Organisations then have a range of considerations to weigh up to decide whether they are compelled to comply or not.
Why the right to be forgotten is so controversial?
Supporters say the policy is a must-have legal tool for people, particularly those outside the public eye, to have their personal information removed if they choose. Those against the court’s decision to only apply the right to be forgotten in the EU argue that it restricts people’s ability to control what information is available about them on the internet.
However, critics on the other side have raised concerns that if other countries, particularly more restrictive governments, adopted rules to force global takedowns, it could lead to broad censorship of the internet.
Against the right to be forgotten, Google had been supported by Microsoft, Wikipedia’s owner, the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the UK freedom of expression campaign group Article 19, among others.
Since 2014, Google has received requests to take down more than 3.3 million links, and has granted about 45 percent, according to company figures.
But supporters of this policy are still not satisfied as it is Google who makes the decision whether or not to delete this information, becoming an almost judicial authority on the right to be forgotten.
As a user it is important to know what your rights are and the extent of the right to be forgotten.
For any doubts about data protection or how to comply with the right to be forgotten as a business, book a call with our legal team and we’ll help you with your legal queries.