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House of Lords declares right to be forgotten as unworkable, unreasonable and wrong in principle

30 July 2014

A report published on 30th July 2014 by the House of Lords Home Affairs, Health and Education EU sub-committee states that the right to be forgotten judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is wrong in principle and that the assumption that the right to be forgotten exists has created an unworkable and unreasonable situation.

The short enquiry by the House of Lords has misinterpreted, we believe, the decision of the CJEU and also misunderstands that the right to be forgotten is only an extension of pre-existing rights for individuals to require that their personal data is processed fairly and lawfully, is up-to-date, accurate, and kept no longer than is necessary.

Committee Chairman, Baroness Prashar in launching the report comments that "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 have. 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 above comments are not entirely accurate in that in the new Regulation if search engines are not defined as data controllers then they will still be data processors. As both data controllers and data processors will be bound to comply with the Regulation then search engines will still be liable as processors of the information they are linking to.

Furthermore nothing in the proposed Regulation nor in the CJEU judgement gives individuals the rights to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed. The judgement applies to inaccurate and unlawful information!

What is unfortunate about the CJEU decision is that for businesses that are processing personal data it has highlighted the rights of individuals that already exist under data protection laws and the obligations that businesses as data controllers have to comply with those laws.

This article was written by Robert Bond.

For more information contact Robert on +44 (0)20 7427 6660 or robert.bond@crsblaw.com