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You may have heard of it: in a decision described by some as “revolutionary”, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) granted, on May 13, about two months ago, a right “to digital oblivion”, implying that anyone can obtain the deletion, by a search engine, of the referencing of sites containing information concerning them personally and infringing, in view of the circumstances, their right to respect for life private (judgment “ Google Spain”, May 13, 2014, C131 /12 ).

Impact of digital oblivion

Following such a decision, the companies of the Google group took note of the will of the European judge by setting up a system intended to ensure the effectiveness of this right. Schematically, such a device consists of making a form available to all Internet users, which once completed will be returned online to the firm, thus making it possible to formulate a request for the removal of a given link according to simplified procedures. .
Suffice to say that the success of such an initiative was not long in coming: in just over two months, no less than 80,000 requests were sent to the search engine!

However, while such a development is of course to be welcomed, several caveats deserve to be taken into account.

First, when Google is asked, it is of course limited to removing a “referencing”, and not the content itself. It therefore follows that the deletion is at least relative, insofar as the retrieval of information referenced by new websites may have the consequence of letting the information “resurface” several times, and this for a more or less infinite. In addition, the system put in place only concerns the European domain of Google, so that no reimbursement can currently concern the American domain, in particular, accessible from French territory.

Challenges and Considerations

Secondly, the follow-up that may be given to any request has a genuinely legal character, in that it inevitably results from an arbitration carried out between several sources of divergent interests. On the one hand, such requests cannot of course be subject to automated and computerized processing, and on the other hand, they are likely to be the subject of certain oppositions, which may not be totally illegitimate. .

Therefore, is it really appropriate to entrust Google with the responsibility and power of such decisions? Apart from the fact that waiting times are likely to increase rapidly, would it not be preferable, in particular, for such a competence to be attributed to a specific independent authority, when it is known that many requests relate to information contained in press articles and that some newspapers are already crying out for censorship?
There is no doubt that the legislator, both national and European, has “a lot on the table”.
DAMY law firm – 2022