The European privacy advisory body, the Article 29 Working Party (“the Working Party”), recently published guidelines on the implementation of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment regarding the “right to be forgotten” (see our report regarding this ruling).

In the guidelines, the Working Party provides an interpretation of the ECJ judgment, which clarified the application of data protection law on search engines. In particular, the Working Party observed that the EU data protection authorities will focus on claims where there is a clear link between the data subject and the EU, for instance where the data subject is a citizen or resident of an EU Member State. The Working Party also opined, in this regard, that in order to give the ruling full effect, de-listing decisions of name queries results should not be limited to EU domains (but rather also include .com domains). 

The Working Party also clarified that the ruling applies to general purpose search engines (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo), as opposed to search tools available on websites for restricted use

Furthermore, the Working Party opined that search engines should not, as a general practice, inform the webmasters of the pages affected by removals of a name-based query, as there is no legal basis for such routine communication under EU data protection law.

The Working Party also outlined an annotated non-exhaustive list of common criteria for the handling of complaints by European data protection authorities, to be applied in light of the principles established by the ECJ.