Do we have a right to be forgotten online?

ORDENADORHave you ever tried to write your name on an Internet search engine? Have you been unpleasantly surprised with the relevant results? If so, you will not be the first one who tries to delete that negative search result from the net. In other words the first who tries to exercise his “right to oblivion” (also called right to be forgotten).

Right to oblivion is a personal right to delete his personal data if they are no longer relevant after a period of time. It has many sides, but this article focuses on its existence against Internet search engines (ex: Google) with contents which are truth but they do not have current relevance.

At this time, European Court of Justice is deliberating on its existence in a case between a Spanish citizen and Google under Directive 95/46/EC. When he searched his name in Google, the first result was a years-old advertisement in a newspaper concerning a real estate embargo. He had had debts with the Spanish Social Security which he also paid many years ago. After Google refused to delete the result, he claimed to the Spanish Data Protection Agency. It agreed with the petitioner, ordering Google the delete, but Google appealed to the Audiencia Nacional (Spanish National Court). In order to interpret the Directive, the Court sought a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice.

What is the legal issue?

On the one hand, Google argues it is a provider of search engine services which cannot alter search results. Otherwise, it would violate information freedom. It also asserts that the claimant should claim the delete to the newspaper.

On the other hand, Spanish Data Protection Agency denies the possibility to delete the original content because it was legally published. At the same time, it argues that Google must respect the Spanish Data Protection Law. Therefore, taking into account the lack of current relevance and the negative effect to the claimant, he has a right to oblivion against Google.

Some experts criticise the Agency approach. They would have relied on the Law for the Information Society and Electronic Commerce Services, arguing a right to protection of honour, and not on the Data Protection Law.

ECJ ruling will be a key point in order to know what the scope of our right to oblivion is. It was expected this month but there is no solution yet. Furthermore, European Commission is drafting a new piece of legislation which is likely to include this right protection. It is, therefore, only a matter of time.

Sources|Privacidad en Internet y el derecho a ser olvidado/derecho al olvido¿Qué es el derecho al olvido?

More info| Derecho al olvido en Internet

Image| Exploralasalud

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Ignacio Arístegui

LLM in International Maritime Law (Swansea)

LLB + Specialism in Economics(Bilbao) Read Full

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