On September 18, 2014, the European data protection authorities, assembled in the Article 29 Working Party (WP29) at its 97th Plenary, discussed the follow-up to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU of 13 May 2014.

That judgment stated that an internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data, which appear on web pages published by third parties. The Court of Justice set out inter alia that Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, in order to comply with the rights laid down in those provisions and in so far as the conditions laid down by those provisions are in fact satisfied, the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.

However, during the summer of 2014, data protection authorities in the EU have received complaints as a result of search engines’ refusals to de-list complainants from their results.

Under the judgment of Court of Justice, in fact, article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, when appraising the conditions for the application of those provisions, it should inter alia be examined whether the data subject has a right that the information in question relating to him personally should, at this point in time, no longer be linked to his name by a list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of his name, without it being necessary in order to find such a right that the inclusion of the information in question in that list causes prejudice to the data subject. As the data subject may, in the light of his fundamental rights under Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, request that the information in question no longer be made available to the general public on account of its inclusion in such a list of results, those rights override, as a rule, not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in having access to that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name. However, that would not be the case if it appeared, for particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, that the interference with his fundamental rights is justified by the preponderant interest of the general public in having, on account of its inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question.Therefore WP29 decided to have a coordinated and consistent approach in the handling of these complaints, putting in place a network of dedicated contact persons in order to develop common case-handling criteria to handle complaints by the data protection authorities.

This network will provide the authorities with:

  • a common record of decisions taken on complaints and
  • a dashboard to help identify similar cases as well as new or more difficult cases.