The Right to be Forgotten vs. Freedom of Expression and Information

October 04, 2019

The Right to be Forgotten vs. Freedom of Expression and Information

October 04, 2019

Miloš Velimirović

Miloš Velimirović

Partner

Kristina Pavlović

Kristina Pavlović

Associate

The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued landmark ruling related to the right to be forgotten against the French privacy regulator (“CNIL”) in favor of Google. Namely, one of the highest instances within the EU has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally.

The right to be forgotten

This right means that personal data must be erased immediately where the data are no longer needed for their original processing purpose, or the data subject has withdrawn his consent and there is no other legal ground for processing, the data subject has objected and there are no overriding legitimate grounds for the processing or erasure is required to fulfil a statutory obligation under the EU law or the right of the Member States. However, this right is not absolute and only applies in certain circumstances outlined by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

History Lesson

Sensitive data being shared on the Internet without the consent of data subject is a problem that comes with the expansion of the Internet. It all started in 2014 with a ruling in the case Google Spain SL, Google Inc v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González which required search engines (such as Google) to delete inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant data from its results, when requested by individuals concerned.

Just one year after that, CNIL demanded from Google to remove links to pages containing damaging or false information about a person on a global level. In 2016 Google introduced the geo-blocking feature which stopped European users from seeing delisted links by redirecting them to the national version of Google’s search engine but still resisted the global censorship. CNIL argued that users from EU countries could use VPNs or similar tools to work around the geo-blocking feature, which led to a case CNIL vs. Google in front of the EU’s top court.

The court ruled that Google is not required to delink on sites external to the EU. Furthermore, the court stated that “currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject… to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine”.

The ruling, however, stated that search engines must “seriously discourage” Internet users from going onto non-EU versions of their pages to find that information.

Google had previously warned of the dangers of overreach by Europe. In a blog post two years ago, this company said there should be a balance between sensitive personal data and the public interest and that no one country should be able to impose its rules on citizens of another.

Real-life

According to Google, this company received more than 3.3 million requests to delete search results, including news items, posts from social media. However, Google claims that delisting some of the requests would be dangerous for the communities considering the requests. For instance, one request was filed by the man who tried to kill his family, so he wanted a link to a news article about it taken down. According to its most recent transparency report, it had cumulatively granted 45% of right to be forgotten search requests, or about 846,000 links.

This text is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Should you require any additional information, feel free to contact us.

Contact:

Miloš Velimirović , Partner
milos.velimirovic@sog.rs
+381 63 555 156

Kristina Pavlović, Associate
kristina.pavlovic@sog.rs
+381 69 3282 817

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