Lords: Google right to be forgotten 'wrong in principle'

The European Court of Justice's demand for internet search engines to respect individuals' "right to be forgotten" is unworkable and unreasonable and should be written out of future EU law, a House of Lords committee has said.

In a new report, the Lords Home Affairs, Health and Education EU Sub-Committee said it was "wrong in principle" to give search engines the power to decide what should or should not be deleted and called on the UK Government to fight to ensure that updated EU regulations do not contain a "right to erasure".

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Justice minister: No 'unfettered right' to search deletion

Responding to the peers' report, justice minister Simon Hughes said:

The Government wants to protect privacy rights and freedom of speech while taking action to bolster economic growth.

Our greatest challenge is getting that balance right, and we welcome the support of the Lords for our position in negotiating new European data protection legislation.

I agree that it is neither accurate nor helpful to say that the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice has given a right to be forgotten. We need to be clear that the judgment does not give individuals an unfettered right to have their personal data deleted from search engine results.

– Simon Hughes MP

Redacted material criteria 'vague and ambiguous'

In its report, based on evidence from data protection evidence, the Office of the Information Commissioner, justice minister Simon Hughes and Google itself, the Lords committee said that the court's judgment had resulted in material being blocked on the basis of "vague, ambiguous and unhelpful" criteria which did not reflect the current state of information technology.

Peers warned the court against trying to "enforce the impossible".

Committee chairman Baroness Prashar said:

Although this was a short inquiry, it is crystal clear that neither the 1995 Directive, nor the Court of Justice's interpretation of it reflects the incredible advancement in technology that we see today, over 20 years since the directive was drafted. Anyone anywhere in the world now has information at the touch of a button, and that includes detailed personal information about people in all countries of the globe.

– Baroness Prashar

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Lords: Right to be forgotten ruling is 'wrong in principle'

European courts ruled that Google must remove certain search results. Credit: PA

The European Court of Justice's demand for internet search engines to respect individuals' "right to be forgotten" is unworkable and unreasonable and should be written out of future EU law, a House of Lords committee has said.

In a new report, the Lords Home Affairs, Health and Education EU Sub-Committee said it was "wrong in principle" to give search engines the power to decide what should or should not be deleted and called on the UK Government to fight to ensure that updated EU regulations do not contain a "right to erasure".

The court ruled in May that links to irrelevant and outdated data should be erased on request from searches within the EU, sparking concerns over censorship of material which is accurate and in the public domain.

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