ECJ rules in favour of 'right to be forgotten'

The European court of justice (ECJ) has ruled in favour of the so-called right to be forgotten, requiring internet search engines to respond to users requests to erase or modify search results which affect their right to privacy.

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis

14 May 2014

A Spanish man brought the case against Google Spain having complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home which appeared in a search result was a violation of his privacy.

The court, which ruled in his favour, said that the right applies when the data is no longer necessary, and that the burden of proof is on the companies to prove whether the information is necessary or not.

Parliament's S&D group chair Hannes Swoboda responded to the ruling, saying, "This court decision clearly demonstrates the spirit of European data handling: power to the user, not the company.

"Data is one of the biggest new challenges of the 21st century. How we cope with the new masses of data will be one of the main challenges for the next European parliament," he explained.

"Data is one of the biggest new challenges of the 21st century" - Hannes Swoboda

"We support the simple principle that users own their data, as confirmed by the European court of justice.

"[Wednesday's] decision is a big step forward on the path to comprehensive European data protection. The European parliament has a clear position; the [ECJ] has spoken clear words, now the council needs to engage in negotiations," the Austrian deputy concluded.

Sophie in 't Veld, the ALDE group's data protection spokesperson, said, "This is a landmark ruling. It puts results of a search engine within the scope of EU data protection rules.

"The right to be forgotten is by no means an absolute right, but this ruling gives a lot more legal certainty to internet users.

"This ruling puts Europe firmly back in the lead when it comes to data protection in the world" - Sophie in 't Veld

The Dutch MEP continued, "The ruling also establishes that EU law applies unabridged on EU territory. Big internet companies can no longer escape EU data protection rules by having their headquarters outside the EU.

"This ruling puts Europe firmly back in the lead when it comes to data protection in the world".

Greens/EFA deputy Jan Philipp Albrecht also responded to the outcome, saying, "The ruling by the [ECJ] to also hold search engine operators responsible for compliance with data protection law is the right decision.

"[This] ruling clarifies that search engine operators are responsible for the processing of personal data even if it comes from public sources. Affected individuals are therefore also entitled to exercise their right to erasure.

"The ruling by the [ECJ] to also hold search engine operators responsible for compliance with data protection law is the right decision" - Jan Philipp Albrecht

"The court has also clarified that connecting publicly available data to a person's profile constitutes a new and serious breach of a person's rights.

"In addition to this," he said, "The ruling clarifies that European data protection law is applicable as soon as a data controller is operating on the European market.

"It is now important that we adopt a uniform and consistent data protection regulation in order to strengthen the enforcement of such rights in all areas of the law and throughout the EU," he urged, adding, "Governments must finally deliver on this issue at the next justice and home affairs council in June."

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