EU right to be forgotten 'wrong and unworkable'

By Graeme Burton
30 Jul 2014 View Comments
No Google

The right to be forgotten - the European court ruling compelling search engines to remove links to particular online material - is wrong in principle and unworkable, a House of Lords committee has claimed.

The Lords' home affairs, health and education EU sub-committee has condemned the judgment by the European Court of Justice, which requires search engines based in Europe to de-link information about people on request.

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Search engines, such as Google, are approving the removal of more than half of all such requests - but only on their search engines based in, or aimed at, Europe. The company has had more than 70,000 requests so far.

The committee pointed out that the directive upon which the judgment was made, the Data Protection Directive 1995, was drafted three years before Google was even founded. Under the court's interpretation of that Directive, search services such as Google and Bing have been classified as "data controllers", and are therefore liable for information to which they link.

"It is crystal clear that the neither the 1995 directive nor the interpretation of it reflects the incredible advancement in technology that we see today, over 20 years since the directive was drafted," said committee chair Lady Prashar.

She continued: "We believe that the judgment of the court is unworkable for two main reasons. First, it does not take into account the effect the ruling will have on smaller search engines which, unlike Google, are unlikely to have the resources to process the thousands of removal requests they are likely to receive.

"Second, we also believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria. We heard from witnesses how uncomfortable they are with the idea of a commercial company sitting in judgement on issues like that.

"We think there is a very strong argument that, in the new regulation, search engines should not be classed as data controllers, and therefore not liable as 'owners' of the information they are linking to. We also do not believe that individuals should have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said."

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