The right to be forgotten and the EU Data Protection reform


On 18 August, the EU Justice Commissioner Martine Reicherts (who has recently taken over Viviane Reding’s portfolio) delivered a speech focused on the relation between the right to be forgotten and the EU Data Protection. Many critics, such as big internet search engines, believe that the ruling on the right to be forgotten by the EU Court of Justice is leading and encouraging violations of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media. Ms. Reicherts made it clear that the ruling does not give people or organizations the right to ask for content to be removed from the Internet just because they consider it inconvenient.

The Court clearly ruled that the right to be forgotten is not absolute and it calls for a balance between citizens’ fundamental rights and the legitimate interests of internet users. This balance must be assessed in each single case and many factors can play a fundamental role, such as the type of information in question, its sensitivity towards the individual and the people’s interest in having access to the information.

Neither the Commission nor the EU Court of Justice have just invented the right to be forgotten. It is already present in the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995. The Commission aims to update this principle and clarify it for the digital age, for example by making it clear that EU rules have to be applied by all firms offering products and services to EU consumers whether they are located in the EU or outside of it – an important matter for the e-commerce sector.

Like the right to be forgotten also the DPR calls for a fair balance of rights, empowering citizens to manage their personal data while explicitly protecting the freedom of expression and of the media. The Justice Commissioner declared that the EU must keep working hard to ensure that the new rules will be adopted as soon as possible, because “Europe needs them urgently to revive economic growth and job creation”.

Negotiations on the Data Protection Reform have been ongoing for more than two and a half years, achieving good progress but more has to be done, Ms. Reicherts declared. Heads of State and Government have already committed themselves to a swift conclusion of negotiations many times, without achieving it, but at the European Council’s meeting of June they affirmed the importance of adopting “a strong EU General Data Protection framework by 2015”. The Justice Commissioner urged Member States to reach this goal, helping to give to the Europe Union the data protection rules that it deserves.

Ecommerce Europe supports the efforts of the European legislators to modernize the European data protection legislation. In doing so, Ecommerce Europe proposes a risk-based approach which avoids excessive administrative burdens and disproportionate sanctions.