EU Regulators Meet Amid “Right To Be Forgotten” Confusion

Google EuropeThe caution “be careful what you wish for” might be appropriate going into a meeting of 28 European privacy regulators in Brussels this week.

Following the European Court of Justice’s creation of the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) and Google’s launch of a web form to field requests (now over 41,000), privacy officers must come up with a Europe-wide system for implementation of the new rule.

The challenge facing the regulators is daunting:

  • Balancing privacy rights with the public interest
  • Creation of uniform standards across the 28 member jurisdictions so that outcomes don’t vary wildly across countries
  • Creation of an appeal process in cases where Google denies an individual request
  • Determination of who will pay for the administrative procedures and potential appeals

There will be lots of practical and philosophical issues to consider:

  • What role does being a public figure play in the decision of whether to grant a request?
  • What might the public have a right to know about private individuals?
  • What length of time must pass for something to be “outdated’?
  • How does the content in dispute impact the determination of “outdated” or “irrelevant”?
  • What if any “consequences” will there be if content is removed and there’s some later negative impact or outcome (e.g., crime)?

Resolving these and other questions won’t be easy across 28 countries, many of which have different cultural norms.

The body will also have to determine how far beyond Google (Yahoo, Bing) does the RTBF apply — Twitter, Facebook, vertical search sites? What sites qualify as a “search engine”? Is there a traffic or other visibility threshold for application of the new law?

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