On September 24, 2019, in Google LLC v Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés, C‑507/17, the European Court of Justice (Court) held that the right to be forgotten under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) does not require search engine operators to remove web links to online search results globally.  Rather, the Court held that search engine operators are only required to remove web links on versions of their search engines within EU Member States.

The right to be forgotten under Article 17 of the GDPR affords EU residents the right to request data controllers to remove irrelevant, inaccurate, or outdated personal data about them. The Court first recognized a “right to be forgotten” back in 2014, as reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here and here. Since 2014, Google has received over 800,000 requests asking the company to de-list certain web links from its results in response to queries relating to a person’s name.

The present case arose from a 2016 decision to fine Google €100,000 for refusing to apply de-listing requests to all its search engine’s domain name extensions. The Court found that Google is only obligated to de-list web links on EU versions of its search engine. Additionally, Google must, when necessary, put in place measures that “seriously discourage” EU Internet users from accessing de-listed links via non-EU versions of Google.

The Court acknowledged that countries outside the EU do not currently recognize a right to be forgotten, stating that “the balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world.” While Canadian privacy law does not explicitly provide individuals with a right to be forgotten, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is currently seeking clarification from the Federal Court on this very question, as previously reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here. It remains to be seen to what extent, if any, the EU decision will be considered in Canada.

Summary By: Anna Troshchynsky


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