The UK Information Commissioner has published a statement that it supports the Google ruling by the European Court of Justice. Their support is not surprising, of course, although this same ruling has been the cause of much puzzlement and head scratching from some (including by me) to complete disbelief by others.
The ICO points out 4 lessons the judgment has taught us:
1. Google and other search engines may have to remove some results
Yes, indeed, that’s what’s got everyone commenting. The ruling has to be interpreted and applied by the national courts first but, make no mistake, the guidance by the ECJ is clear and some results will have to be removed.
2. There’s still life in the existing data laws
The ICO says this ruling is a good counter argument to those who say the law doesn’t keep up with technology and that the data laws in particular are hopelessly out of date. Until now, I’ve been saying these fears are over played but this ruling might be a turning point. To my mind it is almost a modern day version of King Canute, with the ECJ ruling that search engines should attempt to hold back or filter the tide of information which they did not publish and which is factually accurate as at the date it was published, but is not up to date.
3. The right to be forgotten will be difficult in practice
It’s true that a right to be forgotten could be very useful for citizens. Getting a social media site to delete all your embarrassing entries is one thing but this is far broader than that and a tricky balancing act of personal and public interests. Is it right that a man convicted of possessing child abuse images should be able to ask Google to delete his online history?
4. This is the beginning not the end
The ICO points out that it and its equivalents in the EU will have to assist with the interpretation and implementation of this ruling and the search engines will have to start addressing it.
So where does this leave us? The General Data Protection Regulation is unlikely to change the outcome with its champion Viviane Reding welcoming the ruling. But with the swing to the right in the recent EU Parliament elections, country leaders and EU Commissioners have their own balancing act to achieve to address growing disillusionment among its 500+m citizens. Will the General Data Protection Regulation still be a priority? Will the ICO be able to achieve a good balance under its new approach to enforcement? And how will Google and the other search engines self-police this judgment without censoring our web searches?
It is important to ensure the outcome of this ruling is one made for 2014 and not 1984.
Image “Scales Of Justice Key Means Law Trial ” courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.