Home Knowledge The right to be forgotten – or not

The right to be forgotten – or not

It has been over a year since the CJEU’s landmark ruling in the Google Spain case. Google’s delisting activity extends only to its European domains; links have not been removed from google.com and other non-European domains.  As a result, the French data protection authority issued a notice in June (with the threat of a fine of up to €150,000 for non-compliance) ordering Google to consider all domains.  The authority’s rationale being that the ‘right to be forgotten’ could only be truly effective if applied globally.

Google’s global privacy counsel responded with a blog post noting that while the ‘right to be forgotten’ is the law in Europe, this is not the case worldwide.  The post went on to argue that global delisting would risk a “chilling effect” on the web and did not take account of individual countries national free speech restrictions.  In the end, Google argues, the net “would only be as free as the world’s least free place.”  Google has appealed the order, and the French authority has noted that it will respond within two months.

According to Google’s ‘transparency report’ on its implementation of the right to be forgotten, the search engine has received almost 300,000 requests from European citizens since the judgment, 41% of which have resulted in delistings.  In Ireland, 2,796 such requests have been made, of which only 32% were successful.

Interestingly, what appears to be the first Irish case in respect of the right to be forgotten has come before the courts.  A Dublin man has sought orders from the Circuit Court directing Google to delist items which, he claims, wrongly brand him as homophobic.  The man’s initial request was refused by Google and a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner was also unsuccessful.  The case has yet to be heard but we await with interest the courts’ decision on this matter.     

Contributed by John Magee & Leo Moore