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Report finds right to be forgotten on search engines is unworkable and misguided

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The Right to be Forgotten is a conundrum

The European Union Sub-Committee, one of the many select committees sitting in the house of Lords, has published a damning report that scrutinizes the right to be forgotten judgement passed by the European Court of Justice a couple of months ago.

Its second report, which can be accessed in its entirety here, asks some very pertaining questions not only about the nature of data, but also about how laws can become obsolete within decades.

The document that brought the whole "right to be forgotten" debate is the Article 12 of the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which peers have found to be outdated, given that it was drafted well before the internet became such an internet component of our lives.

Google received more than 70,000 requests to block links - but not remove content - which highlights the relative popularity of the decision. However, the report makes it clear that the ECJ decision was "wrong in principle".

In addition, the committee highlights that the judgement was unworkable, pointing to smaller search engines which, unlike Google, may not have the resources to tackle individual requests for link deletion, especially if deletion criteria is as vague as "particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life".

On whether search engines should be classified as data controllers, the committee says that arguments against that are compelling and recommends that the Government should "ensure that the definition [of data controller] in the new Regulation is amended to clarify that the term does not include ordinary users of search engines".