Francine Friedman Talks EU “Right to be Forgotten” Law with Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Journal blog interviewed Akin Gump senior public law and policy counsel Francine Friedman on the European Court of Justice “right to be forgotten” law that allows Internet users to request that links to content they believe infringes their privacy rights be removed from search engines.

According to the article “‘Right to be Forgotten’ Could Apply Beyond Search Engines,” currently the law only applies to search engines but may expand to include other websites that allow for searches of their archives.

Friedman expressed her concerns regarding the rule’s implementation and boundaries: “If this is applied just to search engines today, it could be applied to particular large searchable sites in the future. I would be concerned going forward to see if people found this to be a useful tool.” Noting that the question may arise as to how to define a “search engine,” she said, “Even if it is not on a search engine there is no reason why they can’t say anything searchable can be requested not to end up in search results.”

She stated that, due to the First Amendment, the United States is unlikely adopt a similar law: “There would be a lot of concern about anything that limited what people could get their hands on in [the U.S.]. But if it turns out it is a somewhat simple process that usually falls on the correct side and only takes away links that shouldn’t be there…we may embrace that in the U.S. But there will be some natural skepticism more so here than has been in Europe.”

She concluded to note that the law’s name is misleading. “It’s more of the right not to be searched. The information will still be there, you just have to know what you are looking for. The link still exists,” she said.