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Google’s Schmidt cries WRONG, throws toys out of pram at ECJ ‘right to be forgotten’ law

Google's Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt says European court struck wrong balance in controversial new online privacy ruling

Eric Schmidt has lashed out at a new European court ruling that will allow people to erase their past from the web.

Speaking at Google’s annual shareholder meeting, Schmidt said the ruling was “wrong”.

On Tuesday the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that people had a ‘right to be forgotten’ online and could ask search engines such as Google to remove “irrelevant and outdated” information from search results.

Google’s executive chairman said that the ECJ had struck the wrong balance in its ruling:

“A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know,” he said.

“From Google’s perspective that’s a balance. Google believes, having looked at the decision which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.”

Google’s David Drummond echoed Schmidt, saying the landmark ruling was too extreme:

“We think it went too far, and didn’t consider adequately the impact on free expression, which is absolutely a human right.”

Google had earlier said the ruling was “disappointing” with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding declaring it a “clear victory” for people’s privacy online.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales joined a long line of people hitting out at the ruling, labelling it “ridiculous”.

“I think it has highlighted a real flaw in the European privacy law which is older than the internet in many ways.

“A very strict reading of the law leads to this very bizarre conclusion that a newspaper can publish information and yet Google can’t link to it,” he said.

Google has reportedly been swamped with takedown requests since the ruling was passed on Tuesday, with a convicted paedophile and ex-politician among those attempting to remove their past from search results.

Luke Scanlon, a technology law expert at Pinsent Masons explained that the ruling followed on from a recent trend of decisions made by European courts:

“We have seen a trend within courts in Germany and France, in the Max Mosley cases for example, requiring Google to react to the posting of images that can be viewed as prejudicial to a person’s interests,” he explained.

“But in this case, the court has chosen to specifically point out that people can request that Google remove information about them even if that information is unlikely to cause them prejudice if it continues to be publicly accessible.”

“The ECJ’s approach may mean that in the context of the internet, data protection law is becoming a much sharper sword than the law of defamation.”

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