Sophie Curtis
The Telegraph
13 May 2015

EU 'right to be forgotten': one year on

Today marks exactly one year since the European Union’s top court made the groundbreaking decision to give people the "right to be forgotten" online – and controversy over the issue shows no sign of abating.

On 13 May 2013, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that internet search engines must remove information deemed "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" for the purposes of data processing, or face a fine.

The ruling came after a Spanish citizen took Google to the ECJ, because he wanted a newspaper article about his insolvency to be "forgotten" by Google and no longer listed on the search engine.

According to Dina Shiloh, a solicitor at Mishcon de Reya who specialises in media law, the decision last May demonstrated that Europeans have the right to control their own data and how it is processed.

"The decision showed that in Europe, privacy is not dead. Google can no longer argue that it is a neutral 'wall' with no responsibility to the content it links to," she said.

However, she admitted that the situation is far from simple. Even if removal requests are granted, those same articles are still available online, on the sites where they were originally published.

Furthermore, articles that have been 'forgotten' by Google in Europe can still be found by searching – where the US version of Google is hosted.

"The 'right to be forgotten' is not absolute," said Ms Shiloh. "It has to be balanced against other fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and of the media."

European regulators are calling for the 'right to be forgotten' ruling to apply to search engines worldwide, not just in Europe. However, this proposal has been met with fierce opposition.

Meanwhile, Ms Shiloh pointed out that the ECJ's decision that Google should not link to "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" material is incredibly broad.

"We are still struggling to define those terms," she said. "In addition,anyone in the public eye may find it difficult to argue information about them is irrelevant – again, 'the public eye' is not an easy thing to define."

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