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A New Headache for U.S. Web Companies

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The European Union’s top court has ruled that citizens have a “right to be forgotten” online, meaning that people can ask the different search-engine owners to remove their personal information and request that a court or data-protection authority step in if a company does not comply with the request. The EU decision applies to search engines; this means it will affect Google, Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo! Inc.

According to Bloomberg News, a distinguished professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Fred Cate, said “It’s just such a mind-bogglingly impossible decision.” Cate shared that, “Courts aren’t responsible for the practical implications of rulings, but this really staggers the imagination.”

  
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The European Union’s decision does not explain what types of information must be removed and does not provide exemptions for data that are true or from a reputable source. According to BBC News, the European Union court of justice said that the  links to “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request.

The director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy, Justin Brookman, said that according to Bloomberg News, “They’d have to hire an army of compliance officers.”

This is set to create new headaches for U.S. web companies, according to a report by Bloomberg News, which have businesses based on handling huge amounts of data that often are not touched by humans.

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The European Union court reported in a statement that it sought a balance between “the legitimate interest of Internet users potentially interested in having access to that information” and privacy rights. The EU proposed the “right to be forgotten law” back in 2012. The EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the court’s decision  saying that it was a “clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans,” in a post on Facebook.

Sarah Meron, a spokeswoman for Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo said that, “Since our founding almost 20 years ago, we’ve supported an open and free Internet; not one shaded by censorship,” Meron said that, according to Bloomberg News, “We’re now carefully reviewing the European Court of Justice’s decision to assess the impact for our business and for our users.”



According to BBC News,  the court in Luxembourg said that people had the right to request their  information be removed if it appeared to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

A spokesman for Microsoft, Jack Evans, declined to comment on the story. A spokesman for Twitter Inc., Nu Wexler, and Genevieve Grdina, a spokeswoman for Facebook Inc., did not respond to requests for comment either.

Image credit: www.uk.queryclick.com

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