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Professor Bernd Holznagel on the Right to Be Forgotten: Removal Criteria and Procedures

In an afternoon seminar on 25th September 2015 (2pm-3.30pm) hosted by the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Bernd Holznagel, director of University of Münster’s Institute for Information, Telecommunications and Media Law will offer his perspective on the European Court of Justice’s Decision in Google Spain SL v. AEPD / Costeja Gonzàlez, focusing on different proposals for removal criteria and procedures. The discussion will be chaired by Dr Irini Katsirea, Reader of International Media Law at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield.

This seminar is co-organised by the Information Law and Policy Centre (Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), the Middlesex University School of Law and the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield. During his visit to London, Professor Holznagel will also participate in an event funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust on ‘Press Regulation in an Era of Convergence’, which will be held the preceding day at Middlesex University  (24th September – booking details).

Abstract

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice delivered what was celebrated as a landmark decision in a case involving Google Inc. and its Spanish establishment, Google Spain SL. The judgment stirred considerable controversy by subjecting global internet giant Google to the European data protection regime.

The ECJ advised the national court to grant the original applicant, a Spanish citizen by the name of Mario Costeja Gonzàlez, the right to demand removal of sites with content featuring his personal data from Google’s search results to queries containing his name. This was derived from the several pre-existing provisions of the 1995 data protection directive and has since been widely referred to as “The Right to be Forgotten”.

A source of major criticism is the balancing mechanism at the heart of removal decisions. While the Court provided clues on the reconciliation between data subject’s right to protection of personal data and the public interest in accessing information, many felt that the judgment fell short in considering media freedom and freedom of expression.

The contemporary discourse has revolved around the judgment’s practical implementation. On the procedural side of things, consensus has yet to be reached on whether and how to include publishers into removal decisions, on the competent authority or institution for the process and on the geographical scope of the removal.

The presentation will initially provide a basic summary of the judgment and then focus on discussing different proposals for removal criteria and procedures, touching on the issues raised above.

About the speaker

Bernd Holznagel is Professor for Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, European Law and Administrative Sciences at the University of Münster in Germany, where he is also director of the Institute for Information, Telecommunications and Media Law. He is a member of the academic advisory council of the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway). His research interests include Public Law and Regulatory Law (Media, Telecommunication, Energy, Data Protection / Security and State Aid Law).