Landmark Court Decision Means Canada Has Now Joined The 'Right To Be Forgotten Globally' Club
from the long-reach-of-the-moosen dept
Techdirt has written plenty about the controversial "right to be forgotten" -- strictly speaking, a right to be de-listed from search engine results in general, and from Google in particular. Although most people associate this with the European Union, which pioneered the approach, the idea has now spread to other countries, including South Korea, China and Japan. In an interesting article in The Globe and Mail, Michael Geist suggests that Canada has now joined the club:
the Federal Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling that paves the way for a Canadian version of the right to be forgotten that would allow courts to issue orders with the removal of Google search results on a global basis very much in mind.
The details of the case are rather unusual. They involve a website in Romania that obtained and posted Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions. These were all public documents, but they were not previously indexed by Google, which meant their contents were effectively hidden. The Romanian site allowed its copies to be indexed by Google, which made the decisions and the Canadian citizens involved visible for the first time -- something the people affected were not happy about. They complained to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who ruled that the Romanian site violated Canadian privacy law. The case then moved to Canada's federal court, which ruled that it had jurisdiction over the website in Romania, since it had strong connections with Canada through its holdings. It then went on to make a declaratory order:
The court noted that the declaration could be used to submit a request to Google seeking the removal of the offending links from its search database. While acknowledging that there was no guarantee that Google would act, it was persuaded by the Privacy Commissioner that "this may be the most practical and effective way of mitigating the harm caused to individuals since the respondent is located in Romania with no known assets."
As Geist notes, whether or not it was the federal court's intention, it seems to have created the Canadian equivalent of a right to be de-listed from search results:
While more onerous than a direct request to Google, the court's approach suggests there is now a road map for the global removal of search results of content that may be factually correct, but which also implicates the privacy rights of individuals.
One indirect effect of this ruling will be to strengthen the idea that there is some kind of "right to be forgotten globally," which will itself probably encourage people in other countries to bring privacy cases that seek to spread it yet further.