21st Oct 2016

EU court: No 'right to be forgotten' in data rules

  • Data rules do not give the 'right to be forgotten' - EU court (Photo: SWIFT)

EU data privacy law does not give citizens the "right to be forgotten," the bloc's court indicated on Tuesday (25 June).

According to an opinion by Niilo Jaaskinen, the advocate general of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, there are no legal provisions requiring internet service providers to delete personal information just because it was embarrassing.

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The case rests on details about a real-estate auction published in a Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia in 1998 brought about by the owners' social security debts, Spaniard, Mario Costeja. Costeja wanted Google to eliminate all links to the auction

In November 2009 the owner contacted the newspaper asserting that, when his name and surnames were entered in the Google search engine, a reference appeared linking to pages of the newspaper with these announcements.

However, Jääskinen adjudged that a national data protection authority cannot require an internet search engine service provider to withdraw information from its index unless it had ignored exclusion codes or been asked to update its cache memory of data.

Jääskinen indicated that Google's role in the case was aggregating the data and was not a “controller” of information, meaning that it was not responsible for deleting data. The 'right to be forgotten' only applied in cases where information was incomplete or inaccurate, he said.

The existing data protection regime “does not entitle a person to restrict or terminate dissemination of personal data that he considers to be harmful or contrary to his interests,” said Jääskinen.

In a statement, Google spokesman William Echikson, welcomed the advocate general’s recommendation.

“This is a good opinion for free expression,” Echikson said. “We’re glad to see it supports our long-held view that requiring search engines to suppress legitimate and legal information would amount to censorship.”

The court case comes as MEPs and ministers are currently working on rules to overhaul the bloc's fifteen year old data privacy regime, which was put in place before the Internet boom.

The proposal tabled by the European Commission in 2012 would give individuals far more control over the use of their personal data, including the right to demand the deletion of their data.

Although opinions by the Advocate General’s are not binding on the Court, they are rarely overridden in the final judgement.

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