Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Focus

Google should 'inform more' on right to be forgotten

Both Google and data protection authorities should do more to inform citizens about their right to have personal information removed from search engine results, several experts say in response to an investigation by this website about the so-called 'right to be forgotten'.

On Thursday (8 October), EUobserver published findings of an inquiry conducted among data protection authorities (DPAs), which indicated that very few citizens whose requests for removal from search engine results were rejected by Google, ask for a second opinion from their DPA. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled citizens had this right in May 2014.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Europeans may not even know they have the right to complain to their data protection authority (Photo: Trey Ratcliff)

According to Joe McNamee, of the non-profit digital rights lobby group EDRi, it is possible that Europeans do not even know they have the right to complain to their DPA.

He pointed to a survey published earlier this year, which found that only 1 percent of respondents knew who the data protection authority was in the United Kingdom.

An EU-wide survey, published last June, showed 61 percent of respondents had not heard of a public authority responsible for protecting their digital rights.

However, the share of people who did know there was such an authority increased from 33 percent in 2010, to 37 percent in 2015.

Lack of awareness

And lack of awareness may not be the only reason for the apparently low number of appeals, said Martin Husovec, a Slovak-born assistant professor at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society in the Netherlands.

"We should surely not assume that all the requests sent to Google are legitimate. It makes perfect sense that the number of follow-up requests is significantly lower, because applying to a state authority forces a citizen to think twice [about] whether his or her situation is really in need of this kind of strong remedy", he wrote in an e-mailed response.

Husovec noted that lack of awareness and "a fear of bringing a personal matter to an official forum" may also play a role, as well as the lack of uncertainty of the scope of what has become known as the "right to be forgotten", but is actually a right to be "delisted" from search engine results.

Both Husovec and McNamee suggested Google could inform citizens better of their appeal options.

According to two rejection e-mails from Google which this website has seen, the US company does refer to the possibility of asking for a second opinion.

"You may have the right to raise this issue with your country's data protection authority if you are unhappy with the decision that Google has taken", it said in the e-mails.

McNamee said it should be "fairly easy" for Google to include a link to a page listing the contact pages of the EU's DPAs.

Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld told this website in an e-mail DPAs also have a role to play.

"If indeed the reason is lack of awareness, I think both DPAs and companies (not just Google) would have a task in raising awareness and informing users. Better awareness is also in the interest of companies: a procedure through a DPA is better than facing endless court cases", In 't Veld said.

The MEP added that she does expect awareness of digital rights to increase. "Until the ruling [on right to be forgotten] very few people even realised they had any kind of right to erasure, although it had been in the Directive since 1995."

New regulation

A spokesperson for the European Commission said its proposal for a new regulation about data protection, which is currently being negotiated, includes an obligation for companies to inform citizens of their rights to complain to DPAs, as well as tasking those DPAs to "promote the awareness of the public on risks, rules, safeguards and rights in relation to the processing of personal data".

The new regulation should also "spell out in greater detail the rules on mandatory cooperation and mutual assistance between national data protection supervisory authorities" so that "a citizen can always complain to his local supervisory authority, which then will have to work together with the supervisory authority in another member state to follow up the complaint".

Currently, citizens of member states where, for example, Google has no office, are forced to contact the data protection authority in a country where it does.

Meanwhile, Husovec said there should be more transparency about how requests for removal are handled. He was one of 80 signatories of an open letter to Google asking for more transparency on how it handles "right to be forgotten" requests.

"We should also recognize as a problem that the cases where Google complies never get second reconsideration. Unless we consider a media outrage as a type of potential remedy. Hence if Google now assumes that the right is broader than it should be, there is no way how to find out that it should be more narrow”, said Husovec.

EU charges Google over Android

The European Commission accuses Google of violating competition rules with its Android operating system for smartphones.

Opinion

Fixing Europe’s digital skills gap

While 90 percent of jobs requires IT knowledge, almost half of the EU population is not properly digitally skilled. That's why training is key for the future, says Google Europe chief.

News in Brief

  1. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  2. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  3. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  4. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  5. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  6. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  7. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  8. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us