Written by Patrick Van Eecke and Anthony Cornette

June 15, 2014

In an earlier blog post, Patrick Van Eecke and Anthony Cornette discussed the impact of the ECJ Case C-131/12. The authors now provide some further insight on the latest developments relating to the ECJ case on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Privacy Commissioners’ Guidelines

On June 3rd, the data protections authorities of the 28 European Member States gathered in Brussels. During the meeting, they discussed common guidelines for the interpretation of the Google Spain SL decision of the European Court of Justice on May 13th, which affirmed a ‘right to be forgotten’. The guidelines are anticipated to be released around September, and are expected to provide additional information on a consistent process to request removals, the criteria to be applied and the appeals process if requests are rejected. The data protection authorities in each country are expected to follow these guidelines across Europe.

The guidelines will be an important step in answering some questions regarding the application of the right to be forgotten. The guidelines may bring clarity on the concrete criteria to be taken into account for the removal of links. There are many questions surrounding the European Court of Justice’s ruling, including: the territorial scope of application of the ruling, the processing of special categories of data by search engines, how links should be handled that become relevant again in the future (e.g. in the event of repeated conduct), what criteria should be used regarding the balance with the public’s right to access of information, the scope of application of the ruling when it comes to social media and news search engines run by media companies.

Google Advisory Board

While waiting for the expected guidelines from the data protection authorities, Google has set up a special advisory board to help guide the processing of the ‘right to be forgotten’ requests it receives. Google also released an online form on May 29th to request the removal of links from its search results. It is noteworthy that Google asks to identify specific links to be removed, the country of origin of the requester, and a reason for their request. Google has indicated that it received over 12.000 removal requests on day one and over 41.000 requests by day four. By comparison, according to Google’s transparency report, it received 23 million URL removal requests in the past month for copyright infringements.

Other search engines (as well as other Internet companies) are closely following these developments surrounding the implementation of ‘right to be forgotten’ requests, when assessing their own compliance with the European Court of Justice’s ruling.