Google's Eric Schmidt and ICO clash on European Court's 'right to be forgotten' ruling

By Danny Palmer
15 May 2014 View Comments
Google's Eric Schmidt

Google and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) have clashed over the European Court of Justice's legal decision on the 'right to be forgotten'. 

The case was brought against Google by a Spanish man who claimed that an auction notice on his repossessed home - easily findable using Google's search engine - infringed on his personal privacy.

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The highest legal authority in the European Union ruled that people have the right to request information about them to be removed from web pages, as long as it can be deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

It is a move that has been welcomed by the ICO, which believes that the ruling represents an important step forward for the data protection rights of the individual.

"This is an important judgement. We welcome the extent to which it upholds the data protection rights of individuals and confirms the powers of data protection authorities to enforce these," an ICO spokesperson said in a statement.

"We will be studying the judgement in detail and considering its practical implications for individuals, businesses and ourselves. When we have done so we will comment further."

Not surprisingly, Google has criticised the decision. Executive chairman Eric Schmidt argued that being forced to delete links to content from the web does not represent a sensible approach to online privacy.

Speaking during the internet giant's annual shareholder meeting, Schmidt said the decision represents "a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know", and that the court has failed evenly to balance the two objectives.

"Google believes ... that the balance that was struck was wrong," he said.

David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, added that, while the web company was still looking into the ramifications of the decision, he believed the court ruling to be "disappointing" and that it "went too far". 

However, the 'right to be forgotten' ruling did not challenge Google's right to collect huge amounts of web search and other data about users of its services. 

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