Forget me not? - An exploration of the recent developments in case-law on the right to be forgotten
Abstract: This thesis has examined the right to be forgotten; the right to have personal data erased from the search index of a search engine operator so that it is not displayed following a search on the basis of a data subject’s name. The right is fairly new, as it was first established in Case C-131/12 Google Spain on 13 May 2014 and was subsequently codified in Article 17 and 21 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016. As the right is, more or less, still in its infancy: when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on 24 September 2019 published the two cases C-507/17 Google CNIL and C-136/17 GC and others which further outlined the scope of the right, the anticipation and interest was, to say the least, high. The scope of this thesis is to explore the implications of the recent development in case law on the right to be forgotten, in the light of the EU’s claim to be founded on values of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and pluralism; the founding principles of EU law, that must permeate all EU measures, both internally and externally. As shown, the role that the EU has given to SEOs as ‘guardians’ of both privacy and freedom of expression online may be problematic from the perspective of individual’s right to access information and thus engage in democratic discourse. The complexity of the balancing of rights and freedoms triggered by a request to be forgotten is, in particular, the data subject’s right to be forgotten, which is a fundamental part of the right to respect of privacy and human dignity, and the public’s right to access information, guaranteed by freedom of expression and information. This is especially true in the context of search engines, which have revolutionized and facilitated access to, and dissemination of, the information in the online sphere. However, as search engines are private entities; how can we be sure that they strike the balance just right between the two competing-yet-intertwined rights? And what are the implications for the founding principles if they fail the task?
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