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'Right to be forgotten' complaints streamlined by data watchdogs

The European Commission is putting together a toolbox for search engines dealing with complaints about right to be forgotten requests, to make sure there's a common approach across Europe.

European privacy regulators are edging closer to publishing a full set of guidelines on how 'right to be forgotten' requests should be handled by data controllers such as search engines.

The right to be forgotten was instituted across Europe following a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this year , which stipulated individuals can request search engines stop returning links that contain outdated, irrelevant, or excessive information about them when searches are performed on their names. The search engines must consider the requests, but it's not mandatory for them to be granted.

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Since the ruling in May, search engines have been accepting and processing requests according to their own internal guidelines, with Google making a number of high-profile U-turns on right to be forgotten requests, delinking and then relinking to certain articles in the results for searches on particular names.

However, the European Commission's Article 29 Working Party (WP29) announced this week that it is working towards a set of guidelines on how search engines should deal with complaints about right to be forgotten requests.

To ensure a common approach by all search engines across the EU, "the European data protection authorities have agreed on a common 'tool box' to ensure a coordinated approach to the handling of complaints resulting from search engines’ refusals to 'delist' complainants from their results", the WP29 said on Wednesday.

While the right to be forgotten is only a few months old, around 100,000 people are believed to have made requests. According to the WP29, some of those have also filed complaints about rejected decisions with their local data watchdog.

"Therefore, it was decided to put in place a network of dedicated contact persons in order to develop common case-handling criteria to handle complaints by the data protection authorities," the WP29 said.

Those 'contact persons' will compile a record of the decisions taken on right to be forgotten requests, and provide a dashboard to help find cases that are similar to each other, and those where the decision is not likely to be a clear cut one.

The WP29 is still analysing "how search engines are complying with the ruling", it said.

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