Media Briefing Note: Council of the European Union Meeting To Discuss Data Protection Regulation

LONDON 9 September 2014 - This week, The Council of the European Union is meeting to formulate its position on the proposed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and discuss the much debated "right to be forgotten" ruling.

On 11 September 2014, the Working Group on Information Exchange and Data Protection (DAPIX) will meet to discuss the proposed regulation, which seeks to harmonise the current data protection laws in place across Europe and take into consideration technological developments such as social networks and cloud computing. Once the Council of Ministers have formulated their position on the regulation, trilateral negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and Council can begin.

As part of the two-day meeting, Council Ministers will also discuss the Right to Be Forgotten section of the regulation - whereby people will have the power to delete their online data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it. The Court of Justice of the European Union recently issued a landmark ruling on the 'right to be forgotten', which determined that individuals in Europe have a right to demand that search engines remove links to pages that appear in response to searches for their own personal name.

Eduardo Ustaran, European Head of the Global Privacy and Information Management practice, said: "It is beyond doubt that the European Commission's strategy to change the existing regime is ambitious and far-reaching.

"With regard to the 'right to be forgotten', the key issue to resolve is when this right should apply and when it should not. The problem is that although it is possible to see when the right to be forgotten would be a convenient tool, there are only very few instances where the exercise of that right would be truly feasible. In a world of user generated content and limitless communications, it is simply not possible to stop the spread of personal information, whether we like it or not.

"A potential alternative would be for the law to prevent our ability to find that information even if it is out there somewhere. As logical as that may sound, that would turn search engines into policemen, judges and censors of potentially every bit of information on the web.

"In its most extreme form, the right to be forgotten would enable individuals to construe a digital persona which, according to them, would keep the good bits and bury the bad bits. Reducing that information to a fake avatar would turn us all into autocratic dictators who present themselves as flawless and hide behind that perfect persona. Therefore, we are very unlikely to see a properly functioning legal right to make others forget us because, whatever value that may have for us, it will not override the societal value of freedom of expression and the rights of others to know the truth."

The EU's European Council is aiming to reach adoption by the end of 2014 and the regulation is planned to take effect after a transition period of two years.

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