Five things agencies need to know about the EU's 'right to be forgotten' ruling

Following the European Court of Justice ruling that supported the "right to be forgotten" earlier this week Charles Ping, the chief executive of Fuel, gives his view on what agencies need to consider.

Charles Ping: the chief executive of Fuel
Charles Ping: the chief executive of Fuel

Earlier this week the ECJ ruled in favour of a Spanish man who had complained that Google's search results referring to the repossession of his home infringed his privacy. Google must now erase those links from its search results.

Here are five things agencies need to consider following the ruling:

  1. This is not going away. This came from the top. The European Court of Justice is the most senior court in Europe. It cannot be treated like the "cookie law", which was for a while "the end of online advertising" but then wasn’t.
  2. It is not simply a way of washing your online profile clean. Those who overdid it in Soho last Friday night cannot send an email to their favourite search engine on the Monday and appear Persil-like by Tuesday. The judgement takes into account the value of recent information. Likewise the difference between "historic" and "historical" information is important. Old information may be merely "historical". Information of significance is "historic".
  3. The process to fulfill the requirements of this judgement isn’t defined. It won’t be the work of an afternoon. The costs of managing that process will need to be absorbed somewhere.
  4. The new data protection legislation is midway through the legal process. It’s right in the middle of the "horse trading" phase and that gives options. Options to illustrate how impractical some aspects of this ruling could be. Options to define a better way with greater detail on conditions under which this feature of the law could be enacted by the public.
  5. More than anything this interpretation shows the way the wind is blowing. By basing a global digital advertising economy on a mixture of US laws (ie not many) and the 19-year-old European law we have created an ecosystem that doesn’t bear scrutiny. 

The difference between knowing someone’s name and tracking them at an anonymous but individual level is, in the eyes of the public a distinction of no value but the law sees differently. Laws tend to reflect society and we are out of kilter. That will change.