The European Union’s Justice Commissioner, Martine Reichert, recently chastised Google and other search engines for intentionally undermining the EU high court’s recent right-to-be-forgotten (RTBF) privacy rule.
This controversial ruling is part of the EU’s effort to reform its data protection laws. It allows individuals to be “forgotten” by petitioning search engines such as Google to remove links to web pages containing personal information that is inaccurate, irrelevant, outdated, etc. Only the links may be removed; the actual web pages remain intact. The search engine can reject the request if it determines the public interest trumps the individual’s right to privacy, at which point the applicant can appeal to a national data protection authority.
“[Google and others] are “trying to use the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on the right to be forgotten to undermine our reform,” Reichert stated in her recent address to the IFLA World Library and Information Congress. “They have got it wrong. And I will not let them abuse this crucial ruling to stop us from opening the digital single market for our companies and putting in place stronger protection for our citizens.”
Reichert pointed out that the court “explicitly ruled that the right to be forgotten is not an absolute, but that it will always need to be balanced against other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media.” Striking that balance may not always be easy, she acknowledged.