UK/EU conflict over the 'right to be forgotten'

05 April 2013. Published by Keith Mathieson, Partner

The Guardian is reporting today that Britain wants to opt out of the 'right to be forgotten', the term applied to article 17 of the Data Protection Regulation which is intended to facilitate the deletion of personal data on request whether or not the data is incomplete or incorrect.

The EU justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, appears to be irritated.  She has described her correspondence with Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, as Kafkaesque, suggesting Grayling is "crazy" to insist on one law for Britain and one for other people.

The UK's objections nonetheless seem perfectly respectable.  The MoJ has said the so-called right to be forgotten "raises unrealistic and unfair expectations".  That is surely right.  While responsible data controllers such as Facebook should be expected to respond to reasonable requests from users to delete their own material, the requirements for data controllers to manage third party erasure would seem to pose serious practical difficulties.  The Guardian quotes Facebook's director of policy for Europe saying he has "concerns about the workability and consequences of a mechanism where organisations start sending each other instructions about data that needs to be removed".

Ms Reding seems unmoved, declaring that this is an internal market regulation from which there is no opt-out and a decision will be taken by majority rule.

The Guardian's report

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