Posted on 13. May 2014
by Elias Vartio
Around a year ago, I wrote an entry on the possibility of a citizen right “to be forgotten” emerging through legislation and case law (available here).
Now, on 13th of May 2014, the day has arrived, just as anticipated. The case also mentioned by Laura Virué Escalera in her response to my blog was now judged by the EU court. In the case a man named Mario Costeja González was deeply troubled as the contemporary google searches on him effectively brought to the attention his earlier economic difficulties. In this particular case, Google had refused to omit a newspaper add concerning an auction notice of his property, dating all the way back to 1998.
The fact that the man still had to endure reputational damage for a circumstance that was relevant over a decade ago but no more, could (in my opinion) among other things be seen to be in conflict with the principle of prohibition of double jeopardy, i.e. that a man should not be punished (or tried) twice for the same offence.
The importance of the judgment is that now indeed a “right to be forgotten” does exist and is covered through the European data directive. This landmark case will probably not be the last one, but rather the first in a long line of processes initiated against internet service providers. As the information becomes ever more accessible across the globe, the importance of fair and correct representation of us – ordinary citizens – become also increasingly vital and critical.
What remains to be seen is also the balancing act between the national security interests of states and the rights of the individual with regards to the various current and past secret state-run databases. A google search is easy to spot, but how can an ordinary citizen become aware of something that should not exist and above all should not be public?