LORDS

'Right to be forgotten' is misguided in principle and unworkable in practice, say Lords

30 July 2014

A recent judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) leads to results which are misguided in principle and unworkable in practice, says the House of Lords EU Home Affairs, Health and Education Sub-Committee in its report.  

Report findings

The Court’s interpretation of Article 12 of the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which was drafted three years before Google was founded, has resulted in the ruling that the search engine’s European sites must process more than 70,000 data removal requests that it has received since its web form went live on 30th May, 17 days after the judgment.

After having heard evidence from data protection experts, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Simon Hughes, and Google itself, the Committee recommends that the UK Government must continue to fight to ensure that the updated Regulation no longer includes any provision on the lines of the Commission’s ‘right to be forgotten’ or the European Parliament’s ‘right to erasure’.

Chairman

Chairman of the Sub-Committee, Baroness Prashar, said:

“The expression, ‘right to be forgotten’ is misleading. Information can be made more difficult to access, but it does not just disappear. Anyone anywhere in the world now has information at the touch of a button, and that includes detailed personal information about people in all countries of the globe. Neither the 1995 Directive, nor the CJEU’s interpretation of it, reflects the incredible advance in technology that we see today.

We believe that the judgment of the Court is unworkable. 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.

It is also 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 judgment on issues like that.

There are compelling arguments that, in the new Regulation, search engines should not be classed as data controllers. We do not believe that individuals should be able to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said.

It is incredibility difficult for legislation to keep up or ‘future proof’ the unforeseen leaps that technology is bound to make.  We do, however, need to ensure that the next Regulation does not attempt to give individuals rights which are unenforceable.”     

Further information

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