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February 6, 2015

Advisory Council Backs Google’s Stance on ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Rule

Google’s decision to apply Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling only to its European search results was the right one, according to a special advisory council put together by the technology titan.

The council’s report, which was expected to be filed last month, was posted today after months of debate and holding a series of public consultations across Europe.

Europe’s top court ruled last May that people have the “right to be forgotten” online forcing Google to comply with requests from “ordinary people” to remove outdated links and irrelevant information from its search engine. The European Union Court of Justice, in its ruling, said search engines must either edit or erase online search results if they are found to violate a person’s privacy.

EU privacy watchdogs drafted new rules for Google to follow last November demanding the search engine firm, when it receives a right to be forgotten request, remove the links from all Google search engines, not just its European search.

Although Google has argued that the ruling of the European Union Court of Justice did not encompass U.S. search, the Commission disagreed.

And that is where Google’s self-appointed advisory board comes in. Google asked the members for clarification: is its current stance of delisting data only in the European search engine enough to comply with the court’s ruling, or should it delist from as well?

While the eight-member panel was not unanimous in its decision, the majority advised Google that removing links from EU domains is sufficient.

“We believe that delistings applied to the European versions of search will, as a general rule, protect the rights of the data subject adequately in the current state of affairs and technology,” reads the report.

One of the eight advisory members disagreed with this stance, however. Former Minister of Justice for Germany Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was adamant the ruling was not limited to EU domains.

“The Internet is global, the protection of the user’s rights must also be global,” she said in a personal statement within the report.

Founder of the Wikimedia Foundation Jimmy Wales had a vastly different viewpoint from Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s, however.

“I completely oppose the legal situation in which a commercial company is forced to become the judge of our most fundamental rights of expression and privacy, without allowing any appropriate procedure for appeal by publishers whose works are being suppressed,” he wrote in a personal statement within the report. “The European Parliament needs to immediately amend the law to provide for appropriate judicial oversight, and with strengthened protections for freedom of expression. Until this time, the recommendations to Google contained in this report are deeply flawed due to the law itself being deeply flawed.”

Google is sure to be happy with the report, which backs up its own position on dealing with right to be forgotten requests. It is unlikely EU regulators will accept the findings, however. The only guaranteed outcome thus far is there will be more legal battles on the issue in the future.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.