EU data chiefs want ‘right to be forgotten’ to go global

27 Nov 2014

European Union data officials want the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ rule for the removal of links from searches to become a global reality and not just a European one.

Yesterday in Brussels the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, which is made up of representatives of national data protection authorities from across the EU, called for “effective and complete” protection under the “right to be forgotten” and said that limiting de-listing of search results to EU domains is not enough.

The “right to be forgotten” found a precedent in European law when the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the case of Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González, found that individuals have the right to ask search engines, such as Google, to remove certain results about them.

Freedom of speech advocates and media reacted with horror and many likened the move to walking into a library with a black marker and blacking out entire tracks of books. In terms of the implications for media and society at large, it potentially means a person can request that links to legitimate articles like reports of court cases and judgements about them can be removed from search results.

Last month Google revealed that after six months it received144,954 ‘right to be forgotten’ requests and some 497,695 URLs had been evaluated for removal.

Google said it agreed to one-third of these requests while rejecting two-thirds of the requests.

EU data chiefs want ‘right to be forgotten’ extended to all .com domains

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party is an independent advisory made up of representatives from national data protection authorities in EU member states.

This week it issued guidelines containing 13 main criteria that it describes as a “flexible working tool” to help data protection authorities make decisions on right to be forgotten cases.

In a statement this week the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said: “The WP29 considers that in order to give full effect to the data subject’s rights as defined in the Court’s ruling, de-listing decisions must be implemented in such a way that they guarantee the effective and complete protection of data subjects’ rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented.

“In that sense, limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.”

Internet censorship image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years