On July 25, 2014, the United Kingdom’s House of Lords European Union Home Affairs, Health and Education Sub-Committee published a report, titled “EU Data Protection Law: A ‘Right to be Forgotten’?” (Report), criticizing the recent European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) opinion that found a “right to be forgotten” for European Union (EU) citizens. The ruling would require search engines to delete certain information from their indices. As an initial matter, the Report found that the 1995 Data Protection Directive upon which the ECJ based its opinion to be out of date. The Report also warns against making information that is available to rest of the world unavailable in the EU, as such a practice could have adverse economic and social effects on citizens. Chairman of the Sub-Committee Baroness Prashar summarized the Report by stating, “We do not believe that individuals should be able to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said.”
The Report described two main reasons the “right to be forgotten” is impracticable. First, the Report cited concerns about the impact on small search engines. The Report expressed concern that such a burdensome requirement would stifle innovative growth in that sector. The Report also noted that as it is currently envisioned, the ECJ’s opinion could turn companies into de facto censors of information, a role that makes both the companies and the public uncomfortable. The Report found that because the opinion gives no guidance for how to determine whether to honor a request for deletion, companies will have to make this call.