Balancing the “Right To Be Forgotten” with Public Interest:
On May 13th, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a decision that search engine Google must comply with a request by Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a Spanish national, to remove links to two 1998 newspaper articles that discussed collection proceedings against him that were now “entirely irrelevant.” The court rejected Gonzalez’s demand that the newspaper itself remove the articles as they were “lawfully published.”
The court held that “the activity of a search engine consisting in finding information published or placed on the internet by third parties, indexing it automatically, storing it temporarily and, finally, making it available to internet users according to a particular order of preference must be classified as ‘processing of personal data’… [and] the operator of the search engine must be regarded as the ‘controller’ in respect of that processing.”
Within two weeks of the decision, Google received thousands of demands to remove links from EU citizens. While Google is in the process of establishing a review process, the German government is contemplating an arbitration process to sort out individual privacy rights against the public’s interest in access to the information. The decision applies to EU citizens and extends to search engines beyond Google.
Might U.S. states consider enacting legislation granting their citizens a similar right? How will relevancy of information be determined? Could the right to be forgotten ultimately lead to a large repository of information deemed “irrelevant” that is essentially inaccessible through public search engines?
Access the official press release of the Court of Justice of the European Union here.
Access the court’s decision here.
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