The “Right to be Forgotten Law” (the “Law”) was signed by the Russian President on 13 July 2015 and will take effect on 1 January 2016.
The Law imposes an obligation on search engines that disseminate advertisements targeted at consumers located in Russia to remove search results listing information on individuals where such information is unlawfully disseminated, untrustworthy, outdated, or irrelevant (i.e. the information is no longer substantially relevant to the individual in question due to subsequent events or the actions of individuals). The Law includes exemptions where a search engine does not have to comply – (i) information on events reporting a crime where the limitation period for criminal liability has not expired; as well as (ii) crimes committed by an individual where their conviction record has not been erased.
Search engines are defined as information systems that perform web searches and provide information on third parties’ websites, i.e. search engines such as Google, Yandex, Rambler, etc. The Law does not provide any clarification concerning the criteria for determining whether an advertisement is targeted at Russian consumers. However, it is most likely that the following criteria will be taken into account: (i) websites registered using a Russian top level domain (.SU, .RU, .RF); and (ii) websites and advertisements that are in the Russian language (including where the website has another non-Russian top level domain).
The Russian State Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament) is currently considering a separate bill (the “Bill”) introducing liability for non-compliance with the Law. According to the current version of the Bill, an unjustified refusal to comply with an individual’s request to remove a listing could result in the imposition of an administrative fine of up to RUR 100,000 (currently approx. USD 1,500). Moreover, a failure to comply within 5 days with a respective court ruling requesting the removal of a listing could result in a fine of up to RUR 3,000,000 (currently USD 45,000).
The Bill has passed its first reading in the State Duma. But the Russian Supreme Court, Federal Council of the Russian Federation and the Government have criticized the Bill for its power to impose hefty fines. According to the press the Russian Government is preparing amendments to the Bill for the second reading in the State Duma. These amendments are likely to reject the administrative liability on search engines for refusing to comply with an individual’s request to remove a listing. The proposed amendments also vary the level of fines that can be imposed for a failure to comply with a respective court ruling to remove the listing within 5 days. The level of fine would depend on the status of the search engine: (i) for individuals – up to RUR 100,000 (currently approx. USD 1,500); (ii) for state officials and individual entrepreneurs – up to RUR 600,000 (currently approx. USD 9,000); (iii) for legal entities – up to RUR 3,000,000 (currently USD 45,000). The Bill still needs to pass two more readings in the Russian State Duma, to be approved by the Federation Council (the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament) and to be signed by the Russian President before it becomes official law.