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Reflections on Europe’s “Right to Be Forgotten”

25 June 2014
In a recent ruling, the European Court of Justice ordered Google to remove links from its search results pages referencing newspaper articles that were considered unflattering and out of date by a plaintiff. The ruling, imposing for the first time the so-called “Right to Be Forgotten” has led to debate among privacy advocates and industry stakeholders about potential conflicts between the right to privacy, the right to free expression, and the potential burden imposed on online companies and the “market-place of ideas.”
Reflections on Europe’s “Right to Be Forgotten”

In an Op-Ed for the National Post entitled Sorry, but there’s no online ‘right to be forgotten’,” Ontario's Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian and Hogan Lovells' Christopher Wolf team up to consider the consequences of the ECJ’s ruling. The pair focus on potential conflicts created by the Right to Be Forgotten between the right to privacy and that of free expression and highlight the plausible outcome that companies, in their new forced role as online censors, may “err on the side of deleting links to information.”

Calling the ECJ’s ruling an “extreme application of privacy rights,” Wolf and Cavoukian emphasize that they “strongly support rights to protect an individual’s reputation and to guard against illegal and abusive behaviour” in cases were illegal defamatory content is posted about data subject, but posit that “empowering individuals to demand the removal of links to unflattering, but accurate, information arguably goes far beyond protecting privacy.”

Click here for “Sorry, but there’s no online ‘right to be forgotten’.”


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