The Google tornado: just how ground-breaking is the ‘right to be forgotten’

The recent decision of the European Court of Justice relating to Google and the ‘right to be forgotten’, enabling citizens from the European Union to request search engines operating in Europe to delete, or not to show, certain indexed links, has gone viral.

Since the ruling, many journalists, commentators and lawyers have written both about the benefits and disadvantages of the decision and the impact it may have in Europe and globally. However, in the midst of the gale-force winds of commentary whipped up by the Google case and the resultant frenzy over privacy rights and the ‘right to be forgotten’, we should pause and ask ourselves: just how ground-breaking is this decision?

This landmark case began in 2010 when a lawyer named Mario Costeja González complained to the Spanish Data Protection Agency that Google had interfered with his privacy by indexing pages from a Spanish newspaper that contained information about Mr González’s home being repossessed 16 years ago for outstanding tax debts. Mr González wanted the links removed from Google’s indexed search results…

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