'Inaccurate' media misleads public on European Court's Google ruling

Why would the advertising giant say the sky is falling?

Not very appealing

Very few data protection cases go to appeal before a judge, we're told by the ICO.

“We've only ever had a handful of cases go to the Lower Tier Tribunal for data protection,” a spokesman explained. It’s also worth remembering that Google, as a data controller, can appeal the ICO’s decisions that go in favour of a complainant.

Only seven data protection-related (excluding Freedom of Information) cases have reached the tribunal since the start of 2013.

Google’s Campaign

Why would Google whip up the media to report a crisis that doesn’t really exist?

The EU is reviewing data protection and privacy law. The ICO’s published view is that reforms can be made, but the watchdog is opposed the sweeping “right to be forgotten” Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding is hoping for. The ICO described Reding’s approach to data protection as "anal".

“Individuals need more control over their personal information, but there is a danger that the ‘right to be forgotten’ will lead them to expect a degree of protection that cannot be delivered in practice,” the ICO noted in its published view.

One lawyer who deals with reputation told The Register it was useful for Google to cry wolf. Google likes to declare “the internet is broken” whenever it is caused the slightest inconvenience – knowing that much of the media will be sympathetic. Even if this means taking the side of a foreign multinational against the rights of individual citizens.

To a non-technical mainstream reporter Google’s authority on internet issues carries some weight. Google couldn’t really help itself.

However the possibility of an emergency derogation from Data Protection law is extremely unlikely – France and Germany view individual privacy as paramount. And outside the echo chamber of the UK media, the ECJ ruling has been widely welcomed. It strengthens the power of the individual. For the ICO, it’s achieved a far fairer outcome than the sledgehammer “right to be forgotten” could have achieved.

But bear in mind, when Google says the sky is falling, it doesn’t mean it necessarily is. And like any powerful corporation, it may have an agenda of self-interest.

Europe's data protection regulators meet this week as part of the Article 29 Working Party to discuss the case. Professor Florini told us Google is watching the Article 29 process before putting forward what it recommends. But there are no prizes for guessing what Google would like to see. ®

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