Consumer Watchdog Praises EU’s “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling As Privacy Victory

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SANTA MONICA, — Consumer Watchdog today praised the highest European court’s ruling that people have a “right to be forgotten” and can have online search results linking to outdated, irrelevant information removed.

“This is a substantial victory for the right to privacy,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “I hope the online giants will follow the same policy in the United States.  If they don’t, we need legislation to require it.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that a person could ask Google to remove data that could “appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive … in the light of the time that had elapsed.” The judges added that even accurate data that had been lawfully published initially could “in the course of time become incompatible with the directive.”

The case was brought by a Spaniard who was concerned that Google’s search results were linking to articles about debts he owed long after the case was settled.

Consumer Watchdog said the ruling would help restore the concept of “privacy by obscurity” to the digital age, restoring a balance between the right to know and privacy.

“Before the digital age, if I did something young and foolish, when I was young and foolish, people forgot about it as I matured. While the details might exist somewhere in a paper archive, you needed considerable effort and motivation to dig them up,” said Simpson. “Contrast that to the digital era; all that information that once would have been generally forgotten over time is available with a few clicks of a mouse.  The EU’s decision restores the natural balance by recognizing the right to be forgotten.”

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John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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