Magazine article The News Media and the Law (Online)

The Creeping "Right to Be Forgotten"

Magazine article The News Media and the Law (Online)

The Creeping "Right to Be Forgotten"

Article excerpt

The European Union has claimed the authority to regulate search results that appear on American servers in a November proposal regarding the 'right to be forgotten,' a proposition that is worrisome to U.S. journalists.

Under the current European privacy law, individuals can ask the European versions of search engines to remove links to information about themselves from search results. Sites like and have been forced to comply with the requests unless the information serves a compelling public interest.

Users who want to access the delisted links are switching from European sites like or to, which is hosted on U.S. servers.

In an attempt to stop the circumvention, Article 29 Working Party (WP29) - a committee of members from the European Data Protection Supervisor, national data protection authorities and the European Commission - proposed that individual privacy protection in the 'right to be forgotten' grants them authority to regulate search engines worldwide.

The WP29 proposal's assumption that "the impact of the exercise of individuals' rights on the freedom of expression of original publishers and users will generally be very limited," is flawed, according to Emma Llanso, the director of Free Expression at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), a non-profit organization that advocates for digital rights.

"This is a vast understatement; the 'right to be forgotten' de-listing regime essentially amounts to a notice-and-takedown system where private parties can demand the removal of links to information that is, as the [Court of Justice of the European Union] recognized, true, public, and lawfully posted online," says Llanso. "Any legal framework that empowers third parties to interfere with others' access to lawful and public information necessarily raises significant freedom of expression concerns. …

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