Right to be Forgotten under EU law

The EU "right to be forgotten" derives from a May 2014 ruling of the European Court of Justice in a case where a Spanish individual successfully sought removal of Google search results relating to a newspaper article about an auction notice placed on his home some 16 years previously.

Unexpectedly, the European Court decided that individuals had a right to seek removal from Google (and other search engines) of search results which were "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed". Exactly how this broad wording will be interpreted remains to be seen.

Google say that they will seek to balance the privacy rights of individuals with the public's right to know and distribute information. Google suggest that might be a public interest in information about, say, financial scams, professional malpractice and criminal convictions.

Those unhappy with a Google refusal have the right to seek reconsideration of the decision by the data protection authority in the their country. In the UK, this is the office of the Information Commissioner.

Note that the EU right to be forgotten is based on privacy rights of individuals. It does not apply to companies.

The right may arise in cases of defamation - and indeed it goes wider than this as it can also apply where there is negative comment which is true (and therefore not defamatory). But only if the information can be considered outdated, irrelevant or excessive. (Though there may be a separate basis to seek search engine removal in the case of defamation - see Internet Defamation Disputes).

For anyone wishing to seek removal, it is best to put forward a detailed legal submission to Google and, if necessary, to the data protection authority explaining why the circumstances of the case come within the criteria laid down by the European Court. We are helping clients with such submissions.

How Adlex Solicitors can help ...

... for a free initial chat and more information, contact internet privacy lawyer Adam Taylor on +44 (0) 207 317 8404 or email.

Or email us your telephone number to request a callback