Yesterday, the Article 29 Working Party group of European privacy regulators released a short press release describing the results of its most recent plenary meeting, in which the right to be forgotten was discussed.

The “right to be forgotten” refers to a “new” right that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) read into the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) in the May 2014 case, Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González (C-131/12).  At its heart, the right to be forgotten (RTBF) enables European Union residents to request that search engines to take down certain types of search results based on searches of the requestor’s individual name.  For example, the right enables requests to take down “irrelevant” or out of date search results.

However, the CJEU did not provide many details of how this right can be exercised in practice.  As a result, many questions remain to be determined about the scope of search engine obligations.  To help resolve this uncertainty, the Working Party started work over this summer to develop guidance to clarify the extent of the right.  This guidance has not yet been released — press reports indicate it may be published by the end of November.

In the meantime, the Working Party has worked to develop tools to help data protection authorities (DPAs) across Europe handle RTBF complaints efficiently and consistently.  (It is anticipated that some individuals will not be satisfied with search engine responses to RTBF requests, and may complain to DPAs.  In these cases, DPAs are now seeking to coordinate their responses to ensure that a DPA response to a request in one Member State does not greatly differ from a DPA response in a different Member State.)  These tools include:

  • A network of case officers to share knowledge relating to RTBF cases and enforcement actions.
  • A first draft of a common set of case-handling criteria (again to ensure a consistent response to RTBF complainants).  However, these criteria appear to remain unpublished at this time.
  • A common record of RTBF case decisions and a “dashboard” of tools to further help case officers reach consistency when handling complex and unusual variants of RTBF issues.