The right to be forgotten

On May 13, with sentence no. 131, the European Court of Justice had occasion to rule on the matter in an interesting case on the protection of personal data on the Web. The episode has placed Mr. Costeja Gonzalez and the Spanish Data Protection Agency (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos –AEPD-) opposite Google Spain SL and Google Inc.. The first one made explicit request to the AEPD to impose to the two companies the removal of information relating to personal legal proceedings, ended years ago, from the results of the famous search engine. The Agency agreed with the complainant. Google Spain SL and Google Inc. have then filed an appeal before the National Court, which postponed the matter for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice. All identified matters relate to the applicability of Directive 95/46/EC concerning the processing of personal data and their protection. In deciding the issues in dispute, the Court has described as “personal data processing” the mechanisms underlying a search engine, from the search to the provision of data, and as a “responsible” for this treatment the operator of the same search engine. The most important matter, however, is certainly the one related to the so-called “right to be forgotten”. On the issue, the Community Judge had to arbitrate a “clash” between three distinct interests: the one of the owner of the data in that “the information in question is no longer available to the general public”; the “economic manager’s search engine” one; the one of the general public “to access to information”. The solution has gone in favor of the person concerned in suppression of the personal data emerging from the research, “on the basis of his fundamental rights deriving from Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter [of Fundamental Rights of the European Union]“. Such a “right to be forgotten”, specifies the Court, may be exercised directly against the operators of search engines, however encountering an insurmountable barrier in the type of information, that shall be “inaccurate, […] inadequate, irrelevant or excessive in relation to the purposes of the treatment, which are not up to date or that are kept for a period of time longer than necessary”. The surrendered Google, to adapt to this decision, has prepared a special online form – available at the following site: – for requests for elimination of search results, in which the name to be removed, the URL of the links containing such a name and a short justification for the request shall be indicated.