EU justice chief criticises Google on 'right to be forgotten'
By Benjamin Fox
The EU’s justice commissioner has accused internet giant Google of leading a campaign to shoot down data protection reforms.
Speaking in Lyon, France on Monday (18 August), the commissioner, Martine Reicherts, said: “Google and other affected companies who complain loudly” about a recent EU court verdict on personal data are “detractors … attempting to throw a new spanner in the works".
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The Luxembourg-based EU court in May ruled that Google must remove links to any content that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine.
The ruling was based on the bloc’s 1995 data protection law, which are to be revised by the end of the year.
Since the May ruling, more than 250,000 requests have been made to Google asking for information to be removed from the European part of its service.
The search-engine company, which controls around 85 percent of the EU online market, fears the new data reforms would enshrine “the right to be forgotten” across Europe, leading to a flood of claims to remove data.
Reicherts played down the implications of the court judgement, however.
"A sober analysis of the ruling shows that it does in fact not elevate the right to be forgotten to a 'super right' trumping other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression," she said.
"This ruling does not give the all-clear for people or organisations to have content removed from the web simply because they find it inconvenient."
Reicherts is the short-term replacement for fellow Luxembourg politician Viviane Reding, who took up a seat in the European Parliament following the European elections.
Reding tabled plans to re-write the EU’s now 19-year old laws on data protection in 2012.
But agreement on the new regime could not be reached between MEPs and government ministers before the May poll, leaving it to the mercy of the new parliament and commission which are to start work in September.
The draft bill would allow individuals greater control over the use of their data, including a right to have their data expunged from company records. It would also tighten the rules on data transfers to businesses and governments outside the EU.