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ICO says that the right to be forgotten will be a tricky thing to manage

What the watchdog has learned from the European ruling
Wed May 21 2014, 09:50
Deputy information commissioner David Smith

THE UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has reacted to the European Court of Justice ruling on 'the right to be forgotten' with a suck and it see response.

David Smith, ICO deputy commissioner and director of data protection, said that the flurry of attention that the EU decision got raises a number questions. As the organisation with the UK's data bit between its teeth this has given the ICO something to chew on.

Search engines will be expected to remove search results if an individual complains, and if there is no "overriding interest", he said. The individual will have to contact the provider direct and currently, should a problem arise, the ICO will consider this and consider a response.

"He'll need to contact the search company to remove links from search results, and if the search provider refuses the request, he can contact the ICO," said Smith.

"This judgment was only made last week, and the companies will need some time to work out how they're going to handle this. We won't be ruling on any complaints until the search providers have had a reasonable time to put their systems in place and start considering requests. After that, we'll be focusing on concerns linked to clear evidence of damage and distress to individuals."

Google is already dealing with hundreds of takedown requests, and Google chairman Eric Schmidt has complained about the load that the decision has placed on his firm.

The takeaway from the ruling is that people have a right to forgotten, but Smith said that will be difficult in practice.

"We recognise that there will be difficult judgments to make on whether links should be removed," he said.

"What this is not, then, is a full or absolute 'right to be forgotten'... The right to be forgotten can help reduce privacy intrusion but we have to be realistic about how difficult it can be to completely remove all traces of personal information online."

Smith said that search companies should consider how they respond to requests and promised that the UK ICO and other watchdogs will also consider when and how responses are appropriate. Europe, he assured us all, will have a consistent approach to the requests and their handling. µ

 

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