EU Court Of Justice Advocate General: No Right To Be Forgotten; Google Not Responsible For What It Finds

from the getting-it-right dept

For years, we’ve discussed the very troubling concept, supported by many in Europe, of a right to be forgotten, which would allow someone to require that internet sites scrub any evidence of truthful historical events — such as a criminal conviction — if those events are embarrassing. If you believe in basic free speech rights, such a concept should be horrifying to you. Last year, we noted that a report put out by a European committee noted that it was basically technically impossible to really enforce a right to be forgotten, but the concept is still being widely pushed.

In a key lawsuit in Europe that alleges there already is such a right, and that Google needs to somehow scrub links to information that someone finds embarrassing, the advocate-general of the European Court of Justice, Niilo Jaaskinen, has stated clearly that there is no such right under European data and privacy laws and that the courts cannot require Google to remove links under such a claim. Specifically, Jaaskinen looked at the data protection directive in the EU and found:

…the Directive does not establish a general ‘right to be forgotten’. Such a right cannot therefore be invoked against search engine service providers on the basis of the Directive, even when it is interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The rights to rectification, erasure and blocking of data provided in the Directive concern data whose processing does not comply with the provisions of the Directive, in particular because of the incomplete or inaccurate nature of the data. This does not seem to be the case in the current proceedings

Basically, there’s a right to fix misleading or incorrect data, not data that is accurate that you just don’t like.

Perhaps more importantly, the filing notes that it’s also ridiculous to blame a search engine for finding content that others posted, since the search engine is not responsible for that content. In other words, basic concepts of protection from secondary liability should apply:

In effect, provision of an information location tool does not imply any control over the content included on third party web pages. It does not even enable the internet search engine provider to distinguish between personal data in the sense of the Directive, which relates to an identifiable living natural person, and other data. In his opinion, the internet search engine provider cannot in law or in fact fulfil the obligations of the controller provided in the Directive in relation to personal data on source web pages hosted on third party servers.

Therefore, a national data protection authority cannot require an internet search engine service provider to withdraw information from its index except in cases where this service provider has not complied with the exclusion codes4 or where a request emanating from a website regarding an update of cache memory has not been complied with.

Of course, this is just the advocate-general’s position, and the ECJ could decide to rule otherwise, but it appears to often pay close attention to what the advocate-general submits to the court. Hopefully the court’s eventual ruling agrees with this common sense approach, and doesn’t create a bogus right to be forgotten and then, even worse, puts the liability on third parties for enforcing it.

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Comments on “EU Court Of Justice Advocate General: No Right To Be Forgotten; Google Not Responsible For What It Finds”

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18 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

Google's Schmidt calls for 'DELETE from INTERWEBS' button

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/07/digital_delete_google/

Schmidt evidently has ideas that MIke sez are unworkable. — I’ve read speculation that one purpose Schmidt had in mind, though, is that any future “secret agents” will need their history deleted and new ones created. Besides that, Orwell’s “1984” predicts an “unperson” process in which people are removed from the computer system. Today, to have just your bank accounts and similar data items vanished would be quite inconvenient, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google's Schmidt calls for 'DELETE from INTERWEBS' button

and where in your linked article did it state that it was currently feasible or even possible to do?

I hope you have sent money to theregister.co.uk for stealing their Intellectual Property, or are you finally going to admit to being a freetard who is using others IP without paying for it.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Google's Schmidt calls for 'DELETE from INTERWEBS' button

Just because it may be ‘feasible’ for an organisation with the reach and power of a ‘spy organisation’ to ‘disappear’ people doesn’t mean that a non-governmental organisation would be able to do the same.

Besides, the Internet is making a lot of ‘traditional’ spy activities more difficult – just look at a long list of movies whose main premise would be very difficult to carry off nowadays.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Google's Schmidt calls for 'DELETE from INTERWEBS' button

Schmidt evidently has ideas that MIke sez are unworkable.

If so, he didn’t say what they were. He was just issuing a general “I wish this existed” statement, not offering any explanation of how this would even be technically possible.

That’s because it’s not technically possible. The internet isn’t one giant database where you can just go in and delete records. It’s the cooperation of millions of servers, a mix of privately and publicly owned, each solidly in control of the data they are storing.

In that environment, how could a “delete” button actually work? Take email as an example of the problem: despite there existing a real market for self-destructing email, nobody has ever come up with a way that it can be reliably done — and not for lack of trying — because it can’t be reliably done. Some things are simply impossible.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Playing devil's advocate

So Techdirt’s avocating that criminal records from a person’s youth be removed from public view is not hypocritcal of this article?

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130419/15503622772/washington-state-allows-third-parties-to-brand-youthful-offenders-life-low-low-price-only-69-record.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070313/133615.shtml

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Playing devil's advocate

So Techdirt’s avocating that criminal records from a person’s youth be removed from public view is not hypocritcal of this article?

Neither of those stories assert anything like what you’re claiming they assert.

The first one is advocating the juvenile criminal records should not be sold to third parties.

The second one is commenting on how your data, once on the internet, is permanent and so you should be cautious about what you put on the internet.

No hypocrisy is anywhere in sight.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see why this right is needed

I see what they were thinking when making this right to be forgotten.

Here in America, if you get sent to jail for even the most minor thing like smoking pot, you’re basically branded a criminal for life. It’s extremely difficult to get almost any job, because most people won’t hire those with a criminal past.

And at the same time, you’re ten times more likely to break the law and go back to jail once you’ve already been there.

But really, if you broke the law to steal some money since you couldn’t afford to get by before, this branding of you as a criminal for life gets you stuck in an infinite loop of having to break the law to survive because no one will hire you as a law abiding citizen.

Also, to make things worse, the programs to help ex cons adjust and not go back to crime after they leave prison are practically always the first thing that politicians cut during a budget shortfall, because hey, you’re just voting against criminals, who wants to be seen supporting criminals with some kind of a ‘handout’? Never mind that cutting such programs can cost tax payers MORE long term when criminals go back to crime.

Fawzy hillal says:

I'm Yemeni in Aden city in illegal prison since 3 years without trial not send to court no case only because of bequest heritage my brothers paied money to some commanders in gov besides kidnaped my sons steal my workshop all cases police done it against

I’m seeking for European Union court to punish them and shifting me as asylum refugee along with my sons to Europe country where I can live in save my age 41 years engineer welder Yemeni I request you to help me as you can to reach my letter against Yemeni justice law to the to the Europe union to save me it’s difficult contact for me I don’t want more than to work and live save thank you so much my phone number 009627 code 711760087 or 772676530 emailme2000@ bmail

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