Historic Decision by the European Union’s Highest Court
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, which apparently is at odds with earlier EU rulings – ECJ’s Advocate General decided in 2013 that Google did not need to delete the links because it was not the “controller” of data and that information should only be deleted when the personal information is either incomplete or inaccurate.
Some commentators question the basis for the decision: “Given that the EU has spent two years debating this right as part of the reform of EU privacy legislation, it is ironic that the ECJ has found it already exists in such a striking manner.” Richard Cumbley of Linklaters told The New York Times.
And, practitioners sound the alarm: Operationally, this will “put search engines in the extremely onerous position of having to take a view on how to comply with potentially millions of individual requests.” (See more details at IAPP Newsletter, The Privacy Advisor, https://www.privacyassociation.org/publications)
Google and others will argue that this amounts to censorship; from Levi Sumagaysay’s blog:
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Does the right to be forgotten — or the right to privacy — outweigh censorship concerns? “[The decision] is one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I’ve ever seen,” Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC. Wales said he expects Google to fight back hard. “If they have to start coping with everybody who whines about a picture they posted last week, it’s going to be very difficult for Google.”