EU sets out guidelines for Google ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

1 Dec 2014

Europe’s Article 29 Working Party (29WP), comprised of representatives from European Union (EU) member states, has published its guidelines for Google to follow regarding the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling.

Issued last May, the ruling requires the internet search giant to take down search results for people within the EU upon their request. Now, 29WP has listed guidelines that address issues that have arisen surrounding the position of public figures and their right to be forgotten.

Drawing an obvious comparison with the debate that has existed in the media for decades, in its nine key points published online, 29WP has placed a particular emphasis on striking a balance between the individual’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know information should it be deemed relevant in the ‘public interest’.

In essence, the guidelines place Google as a data controller, but 29WP claim the impact on freedom of expression with the delisting of individuals will be ‘very limited’, despite claims by the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, that the right to be forgotten ruling is “one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I’ve ever seen”.

According to the guidelines, “if the interest of the public overrides the rights of the data subject, delisting will not be appropriate”.

Don’t forget image via Shutterstock

Removing Google transparency over ruling

Many Google users may have noticed at the end of search results since the ruling was passed a message that says, “Some results may have been removed under data protection laws in Europe”, but according to the new guidelines, this may soon become a thing of the past.

In its eighth point, 29WP say the practice is not required under data protection laws and claims “such a practice would only be acceptable if the information is presented in such a way that users cannot, in any case, conclude that one particular individual has asked for delisting of results concerning him or her”.

Google’s decision to post this message is part of its promotion of transparency within the company following revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In Europe at least, Google has found itself coming under ever-increasing scrutiny. Last week, the EU told Google it wanted to expand its right to be forgotten ruling to websites with .com suffixes, which would give it a global reach.

The EU also voted in favour of the company being split into two entities in Europe, with its search operation being removed from its commercial business over anti-trust fears.

Google search image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic