The European Union’s Court of Justice backs the right to be forgotten

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On the 13th of May 2014, the EU Court of Justice ruled that Google must delete data from its results that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed”.

The so-called “right to be forgotten” has been backed by the European Court starting from a case (C-131/12) brought by a Spanish man against Google Spain. He objected to the fact that Google researches on his name threw up links to old newspaper articles about the repossession of his home. This case creates both technical challenges and potential extra costs for big tech companies like Google and Facebook.

Google said it was disappointed by the new ruling, because it contradicts a non-binding opinion from the ECJ’s court adviser. Last year, the adviser stated that deleting sensitive information from search results would interfere with freedom of expression. Larry Cohen, from the law firm Latham & Watkins, declared that the ECJ’s judgment “will likely help ordinary people to hide their past or making it difficult to access some information, but not when it concerns public figures or people of genuine public interest.”

Cohen added that the judgment will result in extra costs for Internet search providers, which will have to develop not only the tools for removing links to an individual’s data, but also develop criteria for distinguishing public figures from private ones.

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