In November, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (Working Party) released guidelines as to how the Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) assembled in the Working Party intend to implement the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the case of Google Spain SL and Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González” (C-131/12) (Google Spain). The guidelines also contain a “list of common criteria” which the DPAs will apply to handle complaints.

The CJEU judgment set a milestone for EU data protection by granting individuals the right to request search engines to delist search results relating to them.

Part 1 of the guidelines attempts to interpret and answer the many questions left open by the judgment, and makes clear that the ruling applies to “generalist search engines”, not websites. Most importantly, the right to be forgotten is global, and that by de-listing only EU domains does not guarantee the rights of individuals, since that right extends where there is a clear link between the individual and the EU. Before search results can be de-listed, however, individuals are obliged to “sufficiently explain the reasons why they request de-listing, identify the specific URLs and indicate whether they fulfil a role in public life, or not”. The Working Party also clarified that search engines will not be obliged as a manner of general practice to inform the webmaster of the pages affected by de-listing, but that getting a fuller understanding of the circumstances of the de-listing request may be legitimate.

Part II of the guidelines provides a list of common criteria to aid DPAs’ complaint-handling and decision-making processes. The Working Party emphasises that each criterion applies in the light of the principles established by the CJEU, particularly in view of “the interest of the general public in having access to [the] information”.

The criteria provided by the Working Party will provide a useful guide for search engines seeking to understand how DPAs will interpret the ruling, and also to individuals seeking to better understand the scope of their rights.