As of 1 January 2016, Russian internet users will have the right to demand that any online links to information about them be removed.
This development will primarily affect internet search engine providers, such as Google, Yandex and Mail.ru, who will now be required to consider any request from an individual to remove any link to information about them disseminated in violation of Russian law which is either inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant. Within ten days of receiving such a request, a provider must remove the relevant link(s) or give reasons for its refusal to do so. Such refusal may in any event be appealed by the individual in court.
Individuals will not be entitled to request the removal of links to information about any criminal conviction (unless or until such conviction is overturned, annulled or spent) or any potential criminal offence (unless the relevant limitation period has expired).
Generally speaking, any request to remove a link will constitute confidential information and therefore must not be disclosed by the search engine provider.
This development in Russian law, aimed at the protection of individuals’ privacy, is indicative of a general trend taking place across Europe and whilst this is generally seen to be a positive development, it may also give rise to some unintended commercial drawbacks. For instance, the removal of selected links to information may make it increasingly difficult to properly assess, for example, a potential counterparty’s business reputation and activity. Moreover, for the search engine providers themselves, the additional burden involved in dealing with such requests will inevitably result in increased costs.