Right to be forgotten means EU is like China

The European court ruling requiring Google and other search engines to remove links to legitimately published data continues. It has led to Google removing links to content on BBC News and The Guardian and subsequently reinstating some. Google sources say it is suffering teething problems in setting up this link removal tool. Cynics say Google is playing this just right to keep the issue in the headlines.

Certainly, UK Justice Minister Simon Hughes is not happy about the so-called “right to be forgotten” and in evidence to the Lords Home Affairs Committee said that the UK government is resisting this. Unfortunately, he appears to make a basic error, calling the proposed General Data Protection Regulation a “directive” – the difference between them being a fundamental distinction under EU law which every politician should understand. A quick explanation for those who aren’t politicians or lawyers – each EU member state gets to implement a directive into their national law leading to potentially 28 different  interpretations of the same law hence the concern over the apparent lack of harmonised data protection laws across the EU. On the other hand a regulation sits at the EU level and is directly applicable in national law without national implementation, in theory leading to greater harmonisation. Also, the ruling was on the basis of the existing law, whereas it’s the proposed new law that will introduce the right to be forgotten.

However, he makes an interesting point that the EU criticises China and yet the right to be forgotten means that there will be restrictions to access to information in the EU that will still accessible elsewhere. This is a legitimate concern over censorship given that most users find online information via a search engine.

Despite the UK’s attempts to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the new president of the EU, Juncker has indicated he would not block UK efforts to claw back powers from the EU. I doubt this will include amendments to the General Data Protection Regulation at this late stage, although we can always hope common sense will intervene…


Image credit: Europa – “China & the EU – partners in reform” 

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