The Conseil d’Etat (the Supreme Court for Administrative Justice in France) was recently asked, on appeal, to rule on the right to be forgotten established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Google Spain case (C‑131/12) pursuant to Directive 95/46/EC. The French Court, last Friday, decided to refer several questions to the CJEU for preliminary ruling.
The cases concern four individuals requesting Google to remove links to websites that, in the majority of the cases, contain sensitive data relating to the individuals requesting the deletion. The right to be forgotten provides individuals the right to request the deletion of personal data relating to them. This right, pursuant to findings of the CJEU in the Google Spain case, includes the right to request the removal of links relating to individuals from a search engine. The right to be forgotten is not an absolute right, it has to be weighed against other rights and interests (in the case at hand, the legitimate interests of the operator of the search engine and the general interest in freedom of information), in order to strike a balance between the interests.
The preliminary ruling requested by the French Court, will be essential with respect to the interpretation of the right to be forgotten, as the cases concern “the obligations applying to the operator of a search engine with regard to web pages that contain sensitive data, when collecting and processing such information is illegal or very narrowly framed by legislation, on the grounds of its content relating to sexual orientations, political, religious or philosophical opinions, criminal offences, convictions or safety measures. On that point, the cases brought before the Conseil d’Etat raise questions in close connection with the obligations that lie on the operator of a search engine, when such information is embedded in a press article or when the content that relates to it is false or incomplete.”