More than six months after handing down its controversial ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling, in which individuals in Europe have the right to have ‘inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant’ links deleted from search engine results, the European Court of Justice has finally published guidelines on how the ruling should be applied.

While the guidelines acknowledge the need to balance the rights of the individual against the public interest, the specifics are best described as vague … 

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After establishing the principle that “if the interest of the public overrides the rights of the data subject, de-listing will not be appropriate,” it then makes only the vaguest of observations about how the key terms are defined.

It is not possible to establish with certainty the type of role in public life an individual must have to justify public access to information about them via a search result.

Politicians and business people are cited as examples of those who would “usually” qualify as having a role in public life, but public interest would be limited to “information relevant to their public roles and activities.”

The definition of “public figures” is even less well-defined:

It is equally difficult to define the subgroup of ‘public figures’. In general, it can be said that public figures are individuals who, due to their functions/commitments, have a degree of media exposure.

But even if someone is considered a public figure, some information should still be considered private. Nothing, then, has changed since Google described the impossibility of being asked to make “difficult and debatable judgements” based on “very vague and subjective tests.”

A European Union panel is currently trying to force Google to remove search results from its main .com domain as well as European domains.

Via TechCrunch. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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