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How should/do Google & Co. carry out the “Right to be Forgotten”?

28 Sep , 2014  | by:

The CJEU’s decision in the Case of Google Spain, Google v. AEPD has caused a lot of discussion around the globe (See both Anna’s and Stefan’s blog about the decision). Search Engines, especially Google, have called for guidance on how to decide whether information connected to a person’s name is

inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing at issue carried out by the operator of the search engines”

and thus has to be deleted.

Against this background, I had the chance to attend a presentation held by Daniel Schönberger, Head of Legal Switzerland & Austria, Google Switzerland GmbH in Zurich. His speech mainly gave an overview of the Google Spain Case with a huge emphasis on how Google “feels” about the burdon the CJEU has put on them with its decision in May this year. He also emphasized, that for now Google Switzerland – even though they are not part of the EU – is adhereing to the decision made in Google Spain. Furthermore, another interesting fact was, that generally they do not delete information off their search function for legal entities even if they file a complaint. This was suprising to some of the listeners as in Switzerland the data protection act protects natural and legal persons. Either way, he did give a small insight on how the proceedings go, once a complaint is filed with them using the correct form (see also Peter Fleischer’s summary of the criteria addressed to the Article 29 Working Party):

  • Google has set up an advisory team, that is currently touring Europe in order to gain insight on how to decide when and what to delete.
  • Secondly, Google Switzerland/Austria has a team – in Switzerland its basically the legal department for Google – that focuses on complaints filed with regard to the “right to be forgotten”.
  • The most interesting insight was the little information he gave on when complaints are not granted and the information is not deleted. This is the case if any of the below applies:
    • the respective information stems from a reputable source;
    • the respective information still lies in the public’s interest;
    • the respective information was/is an official political statement;
    • the request is connected to/deemed inappropriate behavior;
    • the respective information is connected to criminal charges and the person requesting the removal is still serving his/her sentence; or
    • the respective information stems from legit government sources.

Daniel Schönberger did though emphasize that the majority of requests they have been able to look into, resulted in the removal of the information as requested (he gave figures, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch them).

Although Google has come up with a sort of check-list to ensure that all requests are treated the same, Daniel Schönberger expressed that more legal certainty ought to be given by the EU on how to implement the “right to be forgotten” when dealing with removal requests.

In response to the issues addressed in this presentation and many other calls for more guidance in the news, the Article 29 Working Party published a press release ten days ago, stating that it also feels that

“it is necessary to have a coordinated and consistent approach in the handling of these complaints.”

So far, no common guidelines for EU member states have been published but there is hope that such recommendations will be published soon in order to ensure more legal certainty for search engines and of course the people filing such complaints in the future.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the summary, well appreciated! As to the criteria applied, I think it is best to link to the following resource, in which Peter Fleischer summarizes, towards the Article 29 Working Party, how the proceed:

    “In reviewing a particular removal request, we will consider a number of specific criteria. These include the individual (for example, whether an individual is a public figure), the publisher of the information (for example, whether the link requested to be removed points to material published by a reputable news source or government website), and the nature of the information available via the link (for example, if it is political speech, if it was published by the data subject him- or herself, or if the information pertains to the data subject’s profession or a criminal conviction).”

    (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8syaai6SSfiT0EwRUFyOENqR3M/edit?pli=1)

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