The ‘right to be forgotten’ determines that individuals should have the freedom to request detrimental information about themselves be removed from search engines like Google. Many critics argue that this notion of removing details about oneself is akin to historical revisionism and censorship. Supporters of this act cite the importance of it due to concerns regarding personal information on revenge porn sites and details regarding past minor criminal activites which can impact on people’s employment chances.
The ECJ (European Court of Justice), presided over over a prominent case in May 2014 which paved the way to the current situation. The ECJ ruled that Google needed to adhere to data protection law by the EU. The ruling states that citizens are entitled to request de-listing requests and search engine companies must delete links which contain their personal information under certain criteria. The case led to widespread concern due to the potential for a floodgate of new cases due to the ease of erasing data found on search links. The court states that de-listing requests can be granted if the information included in URLs are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive”, material relating to a public figure or is in the public interest cannot be removed.
The case in May 2014 is known as: C-131/12 Google Spain SL and Google Inc v. AEPD and Mario Costeja Gonzalez. In 1998 Mr Gonzalez property was auctioned off by court order to recoup social security debts he owed, an article was published by the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. Mr Gonzalez lodged a complaint to the Spanish Data Protection Agency to request this article be removed from Google after having paid off the debt, he claimed that google searches of his name linked to the aution notices for his two properties still were on La Vanguardia’s website. Mr Gonzalez wanted the newspaper and Google to delete those pages and links.
The judgment has allowed people in similar compromising situations to take action and request sensitive information be removed such as cases involving sexual abuse