Right to be Forgotten

What is it?

Right to be Forgotten


In 1998, the home of Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a 58-year-old lawyer and calligrapher from northwestern Spain, was auctioned to enable him to pay a social security debt. These details, initially published in a newspaper, eventually found their way online. Years later, the information about the debt situation, remained available for all to see. Costeja argued that because the house had been sold years earlier and he had paid the tax, the information was no longer relevant. He asked both Google and the newspaper to remove the information. The request was declined.

The complaint

After taking his complaint to the Spanish Data Protection Agency, in July 2010, it was rejected against the paper and upheld against Google. Google subsequently bought appeal actions against the decision taking them to the National High Court of Spain, who because of the wider implications, sought a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on interpretation of the Data Protection Directive. In principle, the questions that needed to be answered were:

(1) whether Google, a U.S. based company, should fall within the territorial buy adipex weight loss pills scope of the directive.
(2) whether Google, or indeed any search engine, could be considered a Data Controller.
(3) whether the Directive really established what has become known now as the Right to be Forgotten.

The judgement

The judgement from the CJEU was that Google Spain should (1) be considered a subsidiary of Google U.S. and were they are one and the same, (2) that Google be considered a Data Controller in this instance and that (3) the processing of data which is “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” is likely to be incompatible with the Directive (which this was).

Google were mandated, in May 2014, to remove links in their search results to the article(s) in question. They have since set up a webform to allow other EU citizens to make similar “Right to be Forgotten” requests for which the linked data can be considered “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed”. Google initiated this service at the end of May 2014 and other search engines have followed suit since then.

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