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Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

Vice-President Viviane Reding reacts to new announcements on the 'right to be forgotten'


As Google announced it would take the necessary measures to comply with the European Court of Justice's landmark ruling from 13 May on the right to be forgotten, Vice-President Reding said the following: "It is a good development that Google has announced that it will finally take the necessary measures to respect European law. It was about time since European data protection laws exist since 1995. It took the European Court of Justice to say so. The right to be forgotten and the right to free information are not foes but friends."

Adding that the European Commission would now need to look into how the announced tool will work in practice, Vice President Reding said that "The move demonstrates that fears of practical impossibility raised before were unfounded."

To those who claim the ruling and the right to be forgotten endangered media freedom she firmly replied: "It's not about protecting one at the expense of the other but striking the right balance in order to protect both. The European Court made it clear that two rights do not make a wrong and has given clear directions on how this balance can be found and where the limits of the right to be forgotten lie. The Court also made clear that journalistic work must not be touched; it is to be protected.

Finding the right balance is exactly the spirit of the on-going EU data protection reform: empowering citizens to manage their personal data while explicitly protecting the freedom of expression and of the media. The freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in Europe's Bill of Rights. Europe upholds this right – not least in Article 80 of the proposed data protection law. It is mass surveillance not data protection that legitimises the actions of repressive regimes.

There is a real opportunity to build strong and innovative businesses on the basis of offering true data protection. Legal certainty and empowering consumers to manage their data can yield steady revenues and profits. Data protection is the business model of the future. There is a whole world of business waiting for companies wishing to seize this opportunity."