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Scope of personal data erasure right not applicable worldwide

View profile for Torion Bowles
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Individuals have the “right to be forgotten” under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which means they have the right for their personal data to be erased upon their request.  A recent case has confirmed that the territorial scope of the right applies solely within the EU and not worldwide.   

In the case of Google LLC, successor in law to Google Inc. v Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (Case C 507/17) EU:C:2019:772 (24 September 2019), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) only required Google to de-reference information on the EU versions of its search engine. Moreover, Google was to discourage internet users from gaining access to links on versions of its search engine outside the EU. The ECJ was clear that Google was not required to de-reference links worldwide.

The ECJ confirmed that the right to be forgotten was not an absolute right and "must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights in accordance with the principle of proportionality." Google was therefore not required to carry out de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine worldwide, merely in relation to EU Member States.

The judgment is seen as providing some clarity for operators of online services, although there may be some difficulty in how they will limit access for individuals in the EU to links available outside the EU.  This must be done in a way which satisfies Member States' Courts.

Although the judgment outlines the right to be forgotten in Member States of the EU and provides greater protections for the individual, the impact of the decision is yet to be seen in relation to online reputation management outside of the EU and worldwide.  For example, individuals who have had data removed after a successful personal data erasure right request in the EU will now find that the same data is accessible outside the EU.

You can contact Torion Bowles to discuss this case or GDPR further by calling 023 8071 7455 or email torionbowles@warnergoodman.co.uk

This article has been published as part of the latest issue of our Commercial Brief, detailed within the In Brief section. To view the other articles within our Commercial Brief click here, alternatively view the other In Brief articles below:

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.