“Right to be forgotten”: the CJEU ruled on the issue

24 September 2019

The CNIL takes note of the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the right to de-referencing.

This right enables any individual to demand that a search engine operator removes certain results linked to his or her name and surname from search results. This removal does not imply the deletion of the information on the initial website.

The CNIL is going to carry out a thorough analysis of these judgements in the coming days. It will then publish on its website a FAQ section which will explain the practical consequences of these decisions for the individuals concerned.

 

In a first decision, the Court brings significant clarifications to the conditions under which people can obtain the de-referencing of a link listed on a search engine when the page in question contains sensitive information (for instance: religion, political opinion or criminal conviction).

This decision also sheds light on the public's interest in having access to information that has become incomplete or out of date.

 

In its second decision, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on the geographical scope of de-referencing. In 2016, the CNIL had deemed that in general, only a global de-referencing could ensure the effective protection of individuals’ rights. In practice, the CNIL considered that if a link about an individual living in France was delisted, the information about him or her should not be accessible anymore, regardless of the country from which the search was carried out.

It is not an approach that the Court chose to pursue.

Indeed, the Court limited the scope of de-referencing, which only applies for results of a search carried out from the European territory. Therefore, the results will still be accessible if a search is performed outside the European Union.

Although the Court ruled that the "right to be forgotten" does not apply at a global scale, it clearly stated that the de-referencing must be effective at a European scale, and not only in the local version of the search engine found in the country where the individual concerned lives.

Moreover, the Court specifies that, although there is no obligation of global de-referencing under EU law, it is also not forbidden. Thus, a supervisory authority, and so the CNIL, has the authority to force a search engine operator to delist results on all the versions of the search engine if it is justified in some cases to guarantee the rights of the individuals concerned.

Finally, the Court demands that search engine operators take efficient measures to prevent or, at the very least, seriously discourage an internet user from gaining access to delisted links. The Council of State has now to consider if the changes made by Google on its search engine since 2016 on this issue are adequate.

 

The CNIL will apply the decisions of the Court when dealing with the hundreds of delisting requests it receives every year.

The responses sent to the complainants will explain the consequences of these decisions.

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