While Greta Garbo famously invoked her right “to be let alone,” 21st century requests reflect the technology of today: the right to be forgotten. Recently Mario Costeja Gonzalez of Spain prevailed against Google Spain in an advisory opinion issued by the European Union’s Court of Justice regarding the European Union’s data protection directive.
Gonzalez sued Google “after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia.” He wanted “…the elimination of data that adversely affects people’s honour, dignity and exposes their private lives. Everything that undermines human beings, that’s not freedom of expression.”
Alan Travis and Charles Arthur of The Guardian succinctly summarize the judges’ decision, saying “the ruling establishes that a search engine such as Google must be regarded as a “data controller” under the data protection laws in those EU countries where it establishes a branch to promote and sell advertising.”
What does this mean for the future? According to the Wall Street Journal, Europeans are asking Google, at the rate of approximately 10,000 requests per day, to delete personal data . While there is no similar uniform legislation in the United States, some argue that the right to be forgotten may eventually make its way to the States.