Google Expands the Right to Be Forgotten

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Google has announced that it will extend the “right to be forgotten” across all of its global websites accessed within Europe. Previously, requested removals of information was only stripped from the European versions of the site such as www[.]google[.]co[.]uk and www[.]google[.]fr, with other websites such as www[.]google[.]com still producing search results of supposedly removed links.

This change is the result sanctions threats made by the Commission national de l’informatique et des libertes (CNIL), the French data protection agency, who said that Google wasn’t doing enough to comply with the ECJ order made in 2014.

What Is the “Right to Be Forgotten”

The right to be forgotten is the right for European citizens to have sensitive private information that
they feel is irrelevant or outdated removed from a Google search. The right was granted in the landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice in May of 2014, and to date there have been over 1.4 million requests with a 40% success rate.

The decision has come with criticism as the effects of removing search results can conflict with freedom of speech. If Google isn’t producing neutral search results, the danger of bias can begin to infringe on the integrity of the world’s most used search engine. As the gatekeepers to an enormous amount of data, Google is treading a fine line as they decide whether or not to comply with requests of data removal.

What Can Be Forgotten

With Google given the discretion over what material qualifies for the right to be forgotten, how can you be sure that you fall within the limitations? The right does not apply to information relevant to the public interest; so information regarding politicians, public officials and professionals will all remain accessible to the general public. The remaining factors given by the ECJ are that nature of the information and the sensitivity to the individual’s private life. The vagueness of these requirements has given Google a wide range of interpretation when making its verdict.

However, the intricacies of the decisions are based more on combatting the unique position that we as a society have found ourselves in, where all online information is instant and perpetual. The right to be forgotten is just that, the right to be forgotten as time naturally takes its course. Can Google always be trusted to make the right decision for so many individuals affected by the permanence of online information? If not, you can always consult with an experienced lawyer.


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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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