Forget Me Not

As noted in an earlier post, in May, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of an individual’s right to have Google delete certain links about that individual. The decision was based in part on a finding by the court that Google is a data controller.

In 2010 a Spanish citizen lodged a complaint against a Spanish newspaper with the national Data Protection Agency and against Google Spain and Google Inc. The citizen complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy rights because the proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years and hence the reference to these proceedings was entirely irrelevant. He requested, first, that the newspaper be required either to remove or alter the pages in question so that the personal data relating to him no longer appeared; and second, that Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove the personal data relating to him, so that it no longer appeared in the search results.  The ECJ agreed.

Click to access factsheet_data_protection_en.pdf

Google set up a form on its site allowing people to request which links should be taken down.  Google has fielded about a hundred and twenty thousand requests for deletions and granted roughly half of them. Other search engines that provide service in Europe, like Microsoft’s Bing, have set up similar systems.

And Google, at last count, reportedly rejects 59% of the requests.

The ruling has been criticized, primarily by news gathering organizations and certain free speech advocates.  The New York Times editorial: “The court’s decision is both too broad and curiously narrow. It is too broad in that it allows individuals to impede access to facts about themselves found in public documents. This is a form of censorship, one that would most likely be unconstitutional if attempted in the United States.”

Now, the BBC will begin – in the “next few weeks” – publishing the list of removed URLs it has been notified about by Google.

The editorial staff of the BBC felt that some of its articles had been wrongly hidden.

 European Union flags outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels