Google and the "right to be forgotten" - EUCJ


A lot of publicity around this case this week, thought it merited a thread given how poorly reported it’s been.

The basics as I understand them are that Google are found to “process” your information when they index and show a page containing your personal information. That means they’re a data controller. And they’re doing it without your permission, so you have the right to have your details removed from their index, even if they’re indexing a true public article (e.g. from the Irish Times).

I think it’s safe to say that lots of legal observers are wondering exactly how much crack the EUCJ was smoking when they handed this down. It departs from current doctrine in several areas which are perplexing people. In particular, this “right to be forgotten” has been essentially manufactured out of whole cloth from no-where, as well as the fact that it apparently trumps the right to free exchange of information.

The other big and surprising issue is that a local DPC was found to have jurisdiction just because Google happened to have a sales office there. This could have big implications for how the online MNCs locate their sales staff – could be good for Ireland since our data protection commissioner’s office is not exactly proactive and is quite pro-MNCs (for now-- we’re getting a new DPC later this year).

As I understand it, this decision will probably be nixed by European Parliament legislation, but in the meantime you can ask Google to remove anything with your name in it, and if they don’t comply you take it to your local DPC.

If anyone is interested in a well-informed (and easy to read) legal analysis, try this.


Apparently so. The original case was about a guy who owed back taxes and some of his stuff was being auctioned. Google picked up the auction notice from the site of a local paper. The paper gets to keep their page up, google has to take theirs down.

It appears that the national DPC has to make a quasi-judicial determination. It’s all bizarre.

Edit: some of the real lawyers on here might like to comment/correct my interpretation…


I’m surprised at the hullabaloo, to be honest.
The finding that Google is, whether by accident or design, a “data controller” within the context of the directive on data protection seems uncontroversial.
The “right to be forgotten” is from Article 12(b) of Directive 95/46/EC* though the term itself is from legislation that’s been in the pipeline for two years: General Data Protection Regulation.
With respect to trumping the free exchange of information, it’s a bit more focused than that: The subject’s right to accuracy and/or timeliness of information stored about him is considered more fundamental than the economic interests of the search engine or the rights of the general public to obtain information by searching on the subject’s name.

*** Member States shall guarantee every data subject the right to obtain from the controller:

(b) as appropriate the rectification, erasure or blocking of data the processing of which does not comply with the provisions of this Directive, in particular because of the incomplete or inaccurate nature of the data;**

Edit: I am not a lawyer, not even a maritime one, but I have a passing interest in various aspects of European law.


A Godsend for the Godsils of this world… even worse it seems as this is how I came across the story. … otten.html


How does this affect more than Google type activities. I mean every other form of potential information sharing that has been around since the year dot. Will we all be obliged to continually forget? Take Insolvency journals and credit checks and anything else that indexes information. How about Governments and other corporations.


Specifically dealt with in the ruling, iirc, as a case where the individual’s right is not consider more important than the public’s right to information.

Edit: here it is, paragraph 97:
[As the data subject may, in the light of his fundamental rights under Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, request that the information in question no longer be made available to the general public by its inclusion in such a list of results, it should be held, as follows in particular from paragraph 81 of the present judgment, that those rights override, as a rule, not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in finding that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name. *However, that would not be the case if it appeared, for particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, that the interference with his fundamental rights is justified by the preponderant interest of the general public in having, on account of inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question. * (;jsessionid=9ea7d2dc30d52ee85f97acd44047b1b087d03d03537b.e34KaxiLc3qMb40Rch0SaxuNbh90?text=&docid=152065&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=347892)


No. The newspaper continues to host its information about the subject. The newspaper has an archive of information - it’s specifically allowed to continue hosting that on the internet.
All that’s changed is Google is no longer allowed to store information harvested from the newspaper about the subject’s tax difficulties.


Yes that is correct but for how long, and why only google. They are not the only search engine and could they not move on such grounds to say they are being singled out, it’s a pandoras box to my mind.


Other search engines will be expected to follow similar practices.
The gain here is for individual liberty, afaics. We’re in uncharted territory with respect to personal data, and greater protection for the individual is welcome.


The on the flip side you have NSA hoovering it all up and trying to force the hand over of passwords en masse. I don’t really buy it when it seems to protect people with ambiguous motives and histories then nothing can be clear at all.

This could be used to protect a million tracksuit wearing bling-bling be-decked dj’s.

Rarely does the mere individual have the means to benefit.

I’m waiting for the “Please forget me” button.


Hmm, I think people give Google too much of a pass - just because they claim the company motto is ‘do no evil’, that doesn’t necessarily make it so.
The quantity of trackable and storable personal data has grown exponentially in the last 20 years; it shouldn’t be a surprise that we need to revisit certain laws to make sure that individuals have some level of protection from companies that make their money from personal data. I’m not certain that the CJEU judgment is the best way to go about it, but it’s a least a start in dealing with issues that weren’t foreseen when the data privacy directive was promulgated.


I’m not really concerned with Google on this one per se. It’s that a judiciary of federalist european level might have a lot to hide. Remember the rings and how they where highly connected but it’s never really fully been exposed, cause it ain’t like it suddenly stopped. Context is more important than anything in a world where reality overrides the abstract conditions of totalitarian supra-judicial perfectionism.


How can a public conviction be regarded as private personal information?

It is the failure of those to hide their transgressions that has forced the nature of their deeds into the public sphere by way of public judicial convictions. To then try and forget seems to fundamentally undermine the idea of justice seen to be done and looks to be more a reward for the perpetrator of any crimes.

The individual victim or wider society as the victim is further protected how?

From reports it appears a majority of the one thousand or so requests to be forgotten are from those with criminal convictions.

This potentially masquerading as privacy victory for all is firmly WAR is PEACE territory, when it potentially is most useful for those with much to hide continuously.

How is an search engines role, commercial or non commercial; any different to any other media or platform that records the same publicly available information be it news print media or TV media.

Considering we have a former Minister for Justic and former Garda Commissioner having to resign for applying the same defiled logic arbitrarily shows that to legislate this behaviour onto the books can only lead to bad bad things. Perhaps the Irish MEP running for election would quickly think about the need to get their position straight on this issue as it’s raging hot as far as I am concerned but is it even being reported here, our recent debacle should inform them clearly which side the public favour, that it might be doubt mght be unsettling but also clarifying.


Yes. What about the right of nerds to dig up dirt on a whim? Their right to have something to say to make them relevant? The rights of the plain nosey and self righteous?! In all seriousness anything that tempers the power and might of google is extremely welcome. Anyway this internet thing might still turn out a fad outside of business, with a little luck and indeed, increasing recognition of the essentially barbarous (though extremely addictive) mode of living it increasingly foists on all.


There will surely be search engines outside this jurisdiction of this vote that will bypass this debased artifice. … nager.html


Will his attempt to purge the details of his crime be public record?


Brendan O’Connor must be delighted. Smart and ballsy no more!


Honestly, if we’re relying on Google and Bing to deal with situations like that, we’re already fubared.
There should be properly maintained registers of sex offenders, thieves, politicians, con artists, and so on. Googling someone is not reliable.


Nor is Journalism but “we are where we are” right!

I’m off to burn my credit card bills and maybe some books to for calorific affect. It’s not right all that information they have on me. Those purchases are from 7+ years ago. Surely we can forget about it all now.


I have to (belatedly) disagree with that reading, respectfully. Ads you say, there is already doctrine around the correction of incorrect information. This is something completely different since it relates to accurate information that has been lawfully already placed in the public domain – it’s an ability to say “Yes, I was convicted for public sex with a donkey, but I’d rather you not know about it unless you go to each newspaper and search their archive after paying for a subscription”. So it’s not really a right to removal of the information, it’s just putting speed bumps in the way.

Further, even the technical matter of the treatment of Google as a data controller is novel, as I understand it. A data controller is usually someone dealing with personal information that you have handed over. I give the ESB my details, they are the data controller. They pass them on to a contractor, then they are a controller. Treating someone who reads a newspaper as a data controller is, to say the least, novel.

To those who trumpet this as some kind of “victory over Google”, I must say I think you’re quite mistaken. This is a tool that will be used by people who wish to erase their past stupidity and sanitise their record. It will make us less free to see truthful reports about politicians, public figures, or potential hires.

But it’s such a bad ruling that it’s likely to be overturned by the parliament before too long. In the meantime I presume Google will deal with it the same way they deal with DMCA takedowns – by replacing the link with a copy of the takedown notice, which contains the link. (for an example, see this example and scroll to the bottom).