Do you have a right to be forgotten?

Recently, a plaintiff in the US sued search engines because after running his name through the search engine’s services, the top results had included links to filings from various previous legal actions he had filed. The plaintiff ‘s possible future employer had seen those results and decided not to hire him.
It is an interesting question whether one can actually do anything about search results concerning former litigations. In the US one simply cannot.

Search engines are granted immunity from liability, as long as they are an interactive computer service displaying information from other information content providers, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
This means that the plaintiff’s claim was dismissed and his many former litigation filings will stay where they are – online and visible to everyone. Several other courts have already come to the same conclusion about litigation material. Personal litigation conduct becomes part of an individual’s permanent record. There is no such thing as a “right to be forgotten” in the US.

The right to be forgotten, however, is a right granted by the EU. Exercising this right, one may force search engines or data operators to “forget” certain personal data by deleting or de-indexing it. This law was introduced in 2014 when the European Court of Justice decided in its ruling against Google that data protection laws do apply to search engines.

You may ask search engines to remove links that feature personal information if the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive, and not of public  interest. The right is not an absolute one and needs to be weighed up against freedom of expression and media rights in every single case

The “Right to be forgotten” is just an example that shows a divergence in the protection of personal data between the US and the EU. Or, like the European Parliament stated in its comparative study between U.S.- and EU- data protection legislation in 2015 “while some legal concepts are similar to a certain extent, most of the EU data protection guarantees simply do not exist in US law”.

Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs