Breaking: Dutch Court decides on right to be forgotten

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19 September, 2014

Today, the Dutch preliminary Court gave the first ruling on the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. According to the preliminary judge in Amsterdam, Google Search doesn’t have to remove information about a man who was convicted for a criminal offence. Negative publicity as a result of a criminal offence is considered to be relevant information, even if time has elapsed, the Court ruled.

The right to be forgotten is derived from a judgment of the European Court of Justice in the Costeja (Google/Spain) case. The Court ruled that individual persons are allowed to request search engines to remove information from their databases that is irrelevant, excessive or unnecessary defamatory.

In today’s ruling, a Dutch man, who was convicted in 2012 for a serious criminal offence, referred to his rights based on the Dutch Data Protection Act and the ECJ Costeja ruling. His goal was to get search engine results on his conviction removed. The Dutch preliminary Court dealt with the case and ruled that negative publicity that is caused by a criminal offence is not a sufficient ground for removal of search engine results. Instead, such information constitutes relevant information on a person, even if time elapses. Additionally, the man didn’t argue sufficiently why the search engines results that refer to news articles on his conviction are excessive or unnecessarily defamatory.

The so-called right to be forgotten has led to lots of discussion. It is almost impossible for search engines to decide whether search engine results meet with the criteria given by the European Court of Justice. Moreover, the right to be forgotten would not be in line with the right to information and freedom of expression (article 10 ECHR). The Article 29 Working Party has announced to come up with guidelines on the practical application of this law.

The full judgment can be found here (in Dutch).

Jonathan Toornstra

Legal researcher

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