Italian DPA Discusses Limits Of Right to Forget Actions

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By Eric J. Lyman

April 8 — Italy's data protection authority (Garante) recently issued its first clarification of how it is handling complaints by individuals regarding their requests to remove search engine results under the European Union's right to be forgotten.

The DPA has received only a small handful of requests seeking erasure of online searches and has denied most of them because they didn't meet general guidelines for removals, the Garante said in a March 31 statement.

The statement is the first public clarification from Italy's DPA of how it is handling implementation of the May 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court, that data subjects in the EU have the right to compel Google Inc. and other Internet search engines to remove search results linking to websites containing personal information about them if their individual privacy outweighs the public interest in displaying the results.

A Garante spokesman told Bloomberg BNA April 8 that requests have so far been infrequent and that Internet search engines, most notably Google, have been cooperative.

Stefano da Empoli, president of I-Com, an Italian research institute that focuses on competitiveness issues, told Bloomberg BNA April 8 that fewer than a dozen right to be forgotten requests have been filed with the Garante, and most had been turned down because the information in the request was seen as true and relevant to the public interest.

“Appeals are always possible and some could be reversed, but at first pass the ruling was that the requests were not legitimate,” da Empoli, who has followed the new rules closely, said.

Request Denied 

The Garante statement made public a December 2014 opinion from the DPA that declined an individual's request to force Google to remove search results that showed a local newspaper's “online news article referring to a judicial inquiry.”

The individual alleged that the article was “misleading and damaging,” Garante said.

The Garante said it denied the request to remove the search request because the article was “extremely recent” and relevant to the public interest. It ruled that press freedom was more important than individual privacy in this case.

The DPA added, however, that “snippets” of information in search results highlighting longer articles must be updated more often so that the snippet doesn't include outdated information, as was the case in another request.

The Garante spokesman said although the ruling and others are helping to define the limits of the right to be forgotten, those limits may still shift in the coming months and years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Rome at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bna.com

The December 2014 Garante opinion is available, in Italian at http://www.gpdp.it/web/guest/home/docweb/-/docweb-display/docweb/3822823.