The Right to be Forgotten Tsunami: What Effect for US Companies
The so-called Right to Be Forgotten or right of erasure (RTBF) has been the subject of much debate and attention since the publication of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) opinion in May 2014, in the Costeja v. Google case. The CJEU held that, under certain conditions, a European citizen has the right to demand that a search engine remove links to information pertaining to him that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive,” even if the information is truthful.
Since the publication of the CJEU opinion, search engines have been flooded by delisting requests. According to the Google Transparency Report, as of the end of February 2015, Google has received over 220,000 delisting requests, and has evaluated over 800,000 URLs.
The topic has also garnered the attention of the Article 29 Working Party (A29), which published Guidelines, in late November 2014, to explain the position of the EU Data Protection Authorities. Among other things, the Guidelines provide that delisting requests, when accepted, must be implemented on all domains operated, worldwide, by the entity receiving the delisting request, and not just only on its EU domains.
Interest in RTBF has also expanded outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Cases similar to the Costeja case have been brought in Asia and the Americas. It is clear that a strong current is building. The CJEU Costeja ruling and its aftermath are significant for businesses around the world in many respects. The genie is out of the bottle, and may be sneaking into, and disrupting many businesses.