Right to Be Forgotten Continues to Create More Regulations for Search Engines

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On Thursday the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29) released a statement regarding the European Court of Justice May ruling on the right to be forgotten. The European Parliament set up the WP29 in 1995 to deal with the protection of individuals in regard to storage, collection and processing of personal data.

The group met in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the implications of the landmark court decision and the effects it is having since search engines begun to attempt compliance. They agreed on guidelines as to how handle the fallout from this ruling.

According to the WP29 statement, “The European data protection authorities have agreed on a common ‘tool-box’ to ensure a coordinated approach to the handling of complaints resulting from search engines’ refusals to ‘de-list’ complainants from their results.”

The court decision allows individuals to request search engines remove links containing incorrect or outdated information about them when searched by name. The ruling left plenty of room for interpretation saying that there needs to be a balance between public interest and the impact that such information can have on people’s lives.

Since the ruling gave no real guidance as to how these requests for removal be handled, companies such as Google and Microsoft have devised their own methods for processing requests. In June Google released an online request site along with a board responsible for vetting the validity of the requests. Microsoft followed suit in July.

“During the summer of 2014, data protection authorities in the EU have received complaints as a result of search engines’ refusals to de-list complainants from their results,” the WP29 statement said. “This illustrates that the ruling has addressed a genuine demand for data protection from data subjects.”

As a result of the meetings this week, the WP29 decided to appoint people to handle the complaints and develop a system and criteria that will give authorities a record of decisions on the complaints and files to help identify both similar and new cases.

“The WP29 feels it is necessary to have a coordinated and consistent approach in the handling of these complaints,” according to the statement.

Earlier this summer, European data protection authorities met with executives from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to discuss the implementation of the right to be forgotten ruling. Guidelines on how search engines must comply will be released early October. The participating companies were asked to answer several more questions about compliance with the ruling by the end of July.

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