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Right to be forgotten - one year on

14 May 2015

It is a year since the controversial ECJ ruling known as ‘the right to be forgotten’ which allows individuals to apply to search engines to have links to personal information about them removed if the information is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.

The decision has been subject to much analysis and debate. Whilst supported by major data protection institutions such as the Article 29 Working Party, the decision has been heavily criticised by others including a House of Lords committee report which concluded the ruling was unworkable.

The Telegraph reports that since the decision Google has received over 250,000 requests for the removal of around 920,000 links of which, over 360,000 have been removed. The Telegraph also reports that, whilst generally supportive of Google’s efforts to properly manage such requests, Google and the ICO are at odds over 48 British cases. This could lead to the ICO taking enforcement action against the company. Google has also been criticised for allegedly alerting media companies, such as the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, when links to their articles are deleted.

By classifying Google as a data controller the ECJ decision made Google subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. As such, there is currently an on-going action against the company for breach of this legislation, after Google allegedly unlawfully processed potentially personal information related to individuals’ internet browser activity. If Google is found to have breached these rules the company could be subject to a significant number of claims with a potentially large cumulative cost.

One year on it seems that the impact of the decision is showing no sign of waning.

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