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NEWS: ‘Right to be forgotten’ to cost brands 'significantly'

Google will amend its search results at the request of an internet user in a test of the ‘right to be forgotten’, following a European Court ruling.

This judgement, in addition to the proposed changes to the EU’s Data Protection Directive, means brands and publishers could be at risk of incurring 'a significant cost' in the future. 

The ruling came after a case was brought forward by Spanish citizen Mario Costeja Gonzalez. Gonzalez argued that his auction notice of his repossessed home, which appeared on Google's search results, infringed his privacy.

The European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) said in a press release: ‘An internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data that appears on web pages published by third parties.

‘Thus, if, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certa.’

Google said the ruling was 'disappointing', and its spokesperson explained: "We now need to take time to analyse the implications."

Meanwhile, Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, welcomed the news in a Facebook post: ‘Today's court judgement is a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans.’

Initially proposed in 2012 by the ECJ, if implemented the ‘right to be forgotten’ will require search engines to edit results to comply with the European directive on the protection of personal data, including removing personal information which is ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’.

James Thomlinson, partner and MD of Bell Pottinger Wired, commented on the news: “The ECJ’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling not only makes for an unrealistic web, but it opens a can of worms on the entire communications industry.

“While the ruling represents fantastic news for the individual, it will come at significant cost to Google and other major content providers as they prepare to deal with increased customer requests and areas of uncertainty.

“The lack of clarity from the ECJ on relevancy of results and whether or not this ruling applies to individuals in companies or even an entire brand’s reputation, will have lawyers up and down the country rubbing their hands in glee.

“From a PR’s perspective very little changes. Having fewer, less relevant results in Google will no doubt be beneficial to a client’s reputation, but it is no substitute for ensuring regular compelling and shareable content is readily available online.”

Keep up with EU data laws by reading our in-depth investigation into the proposed changes