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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Gets a Boost in Europe

(CN) - European lawmakers agreed on a sweeping reform of the EU's data-protection law on Monday, replacing a patchwork of national laws with a single rule that includes the right to be forgotten on the Internet.

While the EU has had a data-protection law on its books since 1995, the European Commission found that differences in the way each member state implements the law has led to "inconsistencies which create complexity, legal uncertainty and administrative costs," the commission said in a statement.

The administrative arm of the EU also noted that the original rules were made long before social networking, cloud computing, location-based services and smart cards. So it proposed reforms to give citizens more control over their personal data and to better guarantee privacy rights.

A hallmark of the reform is citizens' right to be forgotten on the Internet, brought to the forefront by a 2014 European Court of Justice ruling that search engines must erase individuals' personal information when asked.

The EU's data-protection czar took the court's ruling even further in late 2014, saying that search engines like Google and Microsoft's Bing must scrub results globally when requested - not just in Europe.

Monday's agreement implements the EU high court's ruling and the data-protection czar's suggestion, with a special provision to make sure that data posted by children "often without fully understanding the consequences" will be erased on request.

The commission noted, however, that data retained for contractual purposes or in compliance with a legal obligation can be kept as long as needed - as will historical and scientific research.

News websites can also breathe a sigh of relief because politicians do not have a right to have statements they've made in the past disappear from the Internet, the commission said.

Businesses and search engines alike will benefit from the reforms since they replace 28 member-state laws with a single continent-wide rule - saving a combined $2.5 billion annually, the commission said.

The reforms will apply to all companies doing business in the EU, regardless of where their headquarters are. A data-protection board will take the place of each member state's authority to handle compliance, the commission said.

Member states have two years to update their national laws to implement the reform once it passes the full European Parliament and the EU Council.

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