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House of Lords slams 'right to be forgotten' ruling as 'unworkable and unreasonable'

ECJ ruling is 'wrong in principle' and must be rejected
Wed Jul 30 2014, 13:10
Lords slam EU Right to be Forgotten ruling

A DAMNING REPORT from the House of Lords has called the European Court of Justice (ECJ) 'right to be forgotten' ruling "unworkable, unreasonable and wrong in principle".

The Lords Select Committee made the argument in a "EU Data Protection Law: a 'Right to be Forgotten'" report, claiming the recent legislation - which requires search firms to remove links to results that are outdated or unwanted by individuals - will cause more harm than good.

Committee chair Baroness Prashar said the ruling will put too much pressure on search providers, such as Google, which are ill-equipped to handle the extra workload.

"We believe that the judgment of the court is unworkable for two main reasons. Firstly, it does not take into account the effect the ruling will have on smaller search engines which, unlike Google, are unlikely to have the resources to process the thousands of removal requests they are likely to receive," she said.

"Secondly, we also believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria, and we heard from witnesses how uncomfortable they are with the idea of a commercial company sitting in judgement on issues like that."

The Select Committee based its argument on evidence gathered from data protection experts from the Information Commissioner's Office, the minister for justice and civil liberties Simon Hughes, and Google. The search giant reported receiving 91,000 'right to be forgotten' requests in Europe, involving more than 328,000 URLs in July.

Prashar said as well as being impractical, the ruling is also flawed in principle and could be used to cause harm. "We think there is a very strong argument that, in the new Regulation, search engines should not be classed as data controllers, and therefore not liable as 'owners' of the information they are linking to," she said.

"We also do not believe that individuals should have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said."

The report recommended that the UK government continues its ongoing fight to have the European legislation overturned and for the removal of search engine providers as data controllers.

"We recommend that the government should ensure that the definition of 'data controller' in the new regulation is amended to clarify that the term does not include ordinary users of search engines," read the report.

"We further recommend that the government should persevere in their stated intention of ensuring that the regulation no longer includes any provision on the lines of the Commission's 'Right to be Forgotten' or the European Parliament's 'right to erasure'."

The report may well be welcomed by Google, which has acknowledged the matter is complex and causing it many problems. The INQUIRER contacted the firm for any statement in response to the report but had received no reply at the time of publication.

The Select Committee is one of many political bodies to argue that the right to be forgotten is unworkable. Representatives from the ICO and European Data Protection Supervisor argued the right to be forgotten is unworkable at a Westminster eForum that The INQUIRER attended in March 2013. µ


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