Google Wins in Europe over Right to Be Forgotten

EC Court of Justice applies territoriality to protect access to information outside Europe

In a pair of crucial judicial decisions, the European Commission Court of Justice on September 24, 2019 pulled the EU’s approach to information away from trying to enforce a global standard.

The two cases, C-507/17, Google (Portee territoriale du dereferencement) and C-136/17, G. C. e.a. (Dereferencement de donnees sensibles) provided the EC’s highest court the ability to clarify the European “right to be forgotten.” The phrase refers to EU privacy rights that bar the republication of factually correct, non-defamatory information that the subject of the content believes places the person in an uncomfortable light.

The court ruled that the broad privacy rights cannot be applied outside the EU and must be enforced with a balance between the rights of the individual to have the information removed and the right of the public to have access to the information.

As explained by the German news service, “the Court maintained that in the context of a request for dereferencing, ‘a balance must be struck between the fundamental rights of the person” concerned and “those of internet users potentially interested by such information.’”

A data privacy expungement protocol is very helpful for less individuals who find themselves the subject of unwanted attention. It is also a weapon that can be used by celebrities and politicians, creating real concerns about the rights of the public to effective journalism. A version of the right has been codified into Art. 17(2) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), also known as the “right to erasure.”

In 2015, France ordered information removed from Google on all search platforms in all countries, triggering the globalization of the dispute.

In the U.S., the state of California has attempted to create a comparable right for minors and included some data removal protections in the CCPA, but the First Amendment rights of speakers make this effort awkward and largely ineffective.

For an excellent, brief history lesson, read Victor Muskin’s interesting account.

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