Lords say 'right to be forgotten' is unworkable

Parliamentary committee says that asking Google to police the web is unreasonable

The Google search page
(Image credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Forcing search engines to censor the internet and take down personal information to respect people's "right to be forgotten" is unfair, ambiguous and unhelpful, a Parliamentary committee has said.

The Lords home affairs EU sub-committee said that the European Court of Justice's ruling on the issue was unreasonable and placed a heavy onus of responsibility on Google and other search engines.

It also concluded that it would be wrong to give private companies the job of deciding what should and should not appear online, and to allow people to have information removed because they do not "like" it.

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In May, the ECJ ruled that search engines should delete outdated and irrelevant data on request. The move sparked a "fierce debate about censorship of material and right to privacy," the BBC says, but so far Britain has not moved to address the ruling.

In the two months since the verdict, Google has received 70,000 requests from private individuals seeking to have their data taken down.

The court's finding was based on Article 12 of the EU's directive on the protection of personal data – a directive that came into force three years before Google was founded.

The committee said: "It is crystal clear that the neither the 1995 directive nor the [ECJ's] interpretation of it reflects the incredible advancement in technology that we see today, over 20 years since the directive was drafted".

The committee's chair, Baroness Prashar added: "We also believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria.

"We think there is a very strong argument that, in the new regulation, search engines should not be classed as data controllers, and therefore not liable as 'owners' of the information they are linking to.

"We also do not believe that individuals should have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said".

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