Phew: EU Court Of Justice Says Right To Be Forgotten Is Not A Global Censorship Tool (Just An EU One)
from the dodged-a-bullet dept
Over the past few years, an important legal battle has been playing out concerning the jurisdictional reach of the EU’s terrible “right to be forgotten” laws. France decided that Google needed to not just block such content within the EU, but globally. In response, Google pointed out that French regulators shouldn’t be able to censor the global internet. The question made it to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) last year, and the ruling has finally come down saying that Google was right after all. The right to be forgotten may exist in the EU, but that does not mean it can be applied globally.
For once, the CJEU actually seemed to recognize that the RTBF and freedom of expression are often in conflict — and that different countries may want to set the “balance” (if you can call it that) between the two in different places:
… the balance between the right to privacy and the protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world.
Indeed, the ruling notes that data protection is not an “absolute right.”
The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind. The right to the protection of personal data is not an absolute right; it must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality.
Of course, I have a bit of trouble with the idea of things that are considered fundamental rights — such as freedom of expression — being “balanced” against things that are not fundamental rights, like “protection of personal data.” It seems like the fundamental right should always win out in such circumstances. In the US, for the most part, we’ve decided that the 1st Amendment doesn’t have a “balancing” test.
Still, it’s good to see the CJEU at least put some limits on the right to be forgotten and the ability of it to be used elsewhere against perfectly legal, truthful speech. It still sucks for people in the EU, but at least they can’t fully export their censorship.