Back in May, we covered the European Union Court of Justice’s landmark ruling in the Google Spain case (‘CJEU Judgment’). Since then, much has been made in the media about the so-called “right to be forgotten”, and the various characters that have requested the removal of links relating to them. Now, the House of Lords Home Affairs, Health and Education EU Sub-Committee (‘Committee’) has released its own report (‘Report’) on the CJEU Judgment, calling it “unworkable, unreasonable and wrong in principle”.

One of the main concerns of the Report is that the practical implementation of the CJEU Judgment imposes a “massive burden” on search engines, and that while Google may have the resources to comply with the ruling, other smaller search engines may not. In addition, the Report makes much of the argument that classifying search engines as data controllers leads to the logical conclusion that users of search engines are also data controllers.

In relation to the “right to be forgotten” – both as implemented by the Judgment and as proposed by the Data Protection Regulation – the Committee notes a particular concern that requiring privacy by design may lead to many SMEs not progressing beyond start-up stage. Labeling the Judgment “bad law”, the Committee calls for the EU legislature to “replace it with better law”, in particular by removing the current provision that would establish a right to be forgotten. The provision is unworkable in practice since it requires the application of vast resources, and leaves to individual companies the task of deciding whether a request to remove data complies with the conditions laid down in the Judgment.

The Committee’s Report is just one of a host of criticisms that has been made of the Google Spain decision – albeit one of the most high profile. Implementing the Judgment has also caused Google PR headaches, with individual instances of the removal of links subject to widespread coverage in the media.

Cynthia O’Donoghue and Kate Brimsted