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'right to be forgotten' here to stay?

16 April 2014

The European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) has made a significant ruling that individuals may request information personal data be removed from internet search engines if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant,” a rule known as the ‘right to be forgotten’.

The decision means that a search engine will qualify as ‘processing’ personal data with all the legal requirements attached. The ‘right to be forgotten’ has been hotly debated recently in Europe during the passage of the draft Privacy Regulation.

The BBC is already reporting new requests being made to Google and these could be followed by many more. When faced with a request how will operators of a search engine decide if the information meets the ECJ’s requirements? The ‘relevance’ of information may change over time, and alone implies the same information request could be handled differently depending on the applicant’s circumstances. The ruling is likely to permit individuals to be less searchable on the internet, with potential knock on consequences on broader social media. The decision requires the removal of the data links and not the information itself, a possible source of confusion.

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