EU Body Says Right To Be Forgotten Appeals Process Works
Last year’s RTBF judgement was criticised by search companies for being unworkable, but the relevant EU body says that its appeals process is working.
In May 2014, the European Court of Justice handed down a ruling with far-reaching implications for privacy, data protection, and search engines in the European Union. Spanish citizen Mario Costeja González won the right to have outdated information about him de-listed from Google’s search results. The ruling established that Google is considered a “Data Controller” under EU Data Protection law. Consequently, Google is now responsible for removing outdated, irrelevant, and inaccurate material from its results, even where that material has been lawfully published by a third party.
At the time, the ruling was criticised by Google on the grounds that it left the search company responsible for deciding which removal requests should be complied with. Google argued that it was placed in an unfair position of having to make difficult judgements based on vague guidelines.
While the primary responsibility for adjudicating on RTBF requests lies with Google and other search companies, the EU did establish an organisation to handle appeals in cases where search companies deny removal requests. The Article 29 Working Party (WP29), named after Article 29 of the 1996 Data Protection Directive, has recently released a press release regarding a survey it conducted to evaluate its appeals process.
The press release states that, to date, almost 2,000 RTBF appeals have been received. Unsurprisingly, it also states that the majority of these appeals concerned Google’s search engine. However, perhaps the most interesting observation in the press release is that in “the great majority of cases,” the search engine’s decision to deny a removal request was upheld. Together with the fact that the number of appeals is dwarfed by the total number of removal requests, this seems to suggest that, despite its protestations, Google is capable of effectively adjudicating on RTBF requests.