The EU Court of Justice has recently issued a ruling stating that EU law does not require Google to apply the right to be forgotten globally – the Court stated that right applies only in relation to internet searches conducted within the EU.
The right to be forgotten was developed by EU courts back in 2014 (the case Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v AEPD and Mario Costeja González, C-131/12). That right has also been codified in Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The right to forgotten is sometimes also referred to as the right to erasure or right to de-reference. In the context of Google’s operations, that right means that data subjects (individuals) may request search engines to remove links containing their personal information from search results resulting from searches for their names.
Under the Court’s ruling, the right only applies within the territories of EU Member States – it does not apply globally. In other words, EU laws require search engines to remove links to personal data only in relation to internet searches conducted within the EU. The ruling is based on the Court’s analysis of the 1995 Data Protection Directive and the GDPR – which both do not contain clear rules as to the territorial applicability of the right to be forgotten.
Although there are arguments that the Court might have been too restrictive in defining the territorial applicability of the right to be forgotten, the ruling nevertheless represents a welcome clarification of this issue.