ARTICLE 19 welcomes CJEU opinion in ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Digital 5 min read
ARTICLE 19
  • Advocate General Szpunar has issued his opinion in the Google vs CNIL hearing:
  • The Advocate General has proposed that: “the Court should limit the scope of the de-referencing that search engine operators are required to carry out to the EU”.
  • ARTICLE 19 welcomes the recognition that the right to be forgotten must be balanced against other fundamental rights as well as the legitimate public interest in accessing the information sought.

Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:

We welcome Advocate General Szpunar’s opinion that the CJEU should place limits on the scope of de-referencing carried out by search engines.

European data regulators should not be able to determine the search results that internet users around the world get to see. They should only be able to de-list websites within their country’s jurisdiction, and should balance the rights of both privacy and free speech when making that decision.

“We hope that the CJEU will follow Szpunar’s opinion when it issues its judgment in this case later this year.  The Court must limit the scope of the ‘right to be forgotten’ in order to protect global freedom of expression and prevent Europe from setting a precedent for censorship that could be exploited by other countries.”

Background

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) hearing into Google vs CNIL took place on September 11, 2018 after France’s highest administrative court asked for clarification in relation to the 2014 ruling in Google Spain. This judgment allows European citizens to ask search engines like Google to remove links to “inadequate, irrelevant or … excessive” content – commonly known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ (RTBF). While the content itself remains online, it cannot be found through online searches of the individual’s name.

The CJEU has been asked to clarify whether a court or data regulator should require a search engine to de-list websites only in the country where it has jurisdiction or across the entire world.

France’s data regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has argued that if they uphold a complaint by a French citizen, search engines such as Google should not only be compelled to remove links from google.fr but all Google domains.  This could mean that regulators in Europe could decide which search results the rest of the world get to see.

ARTICLE 19 led an intervention by eight international freedom of expression organisations who warned of the potential harm to Internet users’ right to access information if this happens. ARTICLE 19 led a coalition of organisations who intervened in the case. They warned that forcing search engines to de-list information on a global basis would be disproportionate. They also argued that the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression must be balanced when a court or independent body decide whether to de-list a website in their own country.

The CJEU’s judgment is expected in April 2019. Although the opinion is not binding, it often gives an indication of the Court’s judgment.

Contact

Pam Cowburn: [email protected]07749 785 932

Notes to Editors

  • ARTICLE 19 works for a world where all people everywhere can freely express themselves and actively engage in public life without fear of discrimination.
  • ARTICLE 19 filed a third party intervention in Google Inc. v. Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes with the following leading digital , human rights and freedom of expression organisations: Derechos Digitales, the Centre for Democracy and Technology, the Clinique d’intérêt public et de politique d’Internet du Canada, the Electronic Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Open Net Korea and Pen International.
  • The coalition’s submission is available here: https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Google-v-CNIL-A19-intervention-EN-11-12-17-FINAL-v2.pdf