Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unforgettable Rights

In Google Inc. v. Mario Costeja González, the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") ruled, on May 13, 2014, that, under certain circumstances, European Union ("EU") citizens possess a right not to have embarrassing information about them linked to by search engines.  Here is how the ECJ described the basic facts of the case:
On 5 March 2010, Mr Costeja González, a Spanish national resident in Spain, lodged with the AEPD a complaint against La Vanguardia Ediciones SL, which publishes a daily newspaper with a large circulation, in particular in Catalonia (Spain) (‘La Vanguardia’), and against Google Spain and Google Inc. The complaint was based on the fact that, when an internet user entered Mr Costeja González’s name in the search engine of the Google group (‘Google Search’), he would obtain links to two pages of La Vanguardia’s newspaper, of 19 January and 9 March 1998 respectively, on which an announcement mentioning Mr Costeja González’s name appeared for a real-estate auction connected with attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts. 
By that complaint, Mr Costeja González requested, first, that La Vanguardia be required either to remove or alter those pages so that the personal data relating to him no longer appeared or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data. Second, he requested that Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove or conceal the personal data relating to him so that they ceased to be included in the search results and no longer appeared in the links to La Vanguardia. Mr Costeja González stated in this context that the attachment proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years and that reference to them was now entirely irrelevant.
The ECJ decided that EU citizens, such as Mario Costeja González, have a limited right to be forgotten on the internet.

However, this case has now been appealed to a much higher court:  Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.  Here is Justice Oliver's verdict on the right to be forgotten:
Despite a brave attempt by the ECJ to erase internet memory, it is likely that John Oliver will have the last laugh.