The right to be forgotten: a step back
The European Court of Justice has recently issued a ruling concerning Google, regarding the right to be forgotten (art. 17 GDPR), which continues to be debated.
The ruling (case C-507/17) concerned Google’s refusal to de-index various links of Internet pages published by third parties. So as regards, the Court stated that there is no obligation for the search engine that accepts a request for de–indexing submitted by the data subject, deriving from EU law, to carry out such de-indexing on all versions of its engine at worldwide level. However, it is required both to do so in the versions of that search engine corresponding to all the Member States and to implement measures discouraging internet users to be able to have access, from one of the Member States, to the links in question contained in the non-EU versions of that engine.
Given the different standards of protection accorded to the right to be forgotten in the different jurisdictions, the European Court of Justice has essentially ruled that the right to be forgotten does not have the status of an absolute right and, as such, must be weighed against other rights at stake, including freedom of expression and the right of the society to be informed.
In this regard, the president of the Data Protection Authority, Antonello Soro, has expressed his opinion, answering important questions concerning the effectiveness of the right to be forgotten and its correlation with the right to information.
In his opinion, this ruling has undoubtedly a significant impact on the full effectiveness of the right in question also in the light of the delicate balance between the digital society, the protection of rights in the cyberspace and the specific needs of such a large environment. The decision seems anachronistic given the inter-connection of the digital world and the process of regulatory standardization that, as hoped, the GDPR is conducting at a global level.
Moreover, the European Data Protection Authorities have long been advocating the need to equip the right to data protection with adequate and effective enforcement tools. The right to be forgotten is one of those and deindexation appears appropriate and effective. To deny its universal tangibility in an immaterial dimension represents a retrocession not only for the cogency of the GDPR but for the promotion of human rights, first the personal dignity.