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Communications of the ACM

Letters to the Editor

Not So Easy to Forget

Letters to the Editor, illustration


Meg Leta Jones's Viewpoint "Forgetting Made (Too) Easy" (June 2015) raised an important concern about whether the Court of Justice of the European Union's Google Spain judgment created an extra burden for data controllers like Google and other search engines, though not clear is whether it is being borne out or outweighs the privacy gains for hundreds of millions of users. She wrote Google " without any guidance as to which interests should trump others, when, and why." This is not quite true. A number of guiding principles have been published, including from the Article 29 Working Party (the independent advisory body of representatives of the European Data Protection Authorities that would arbitrate disputes under data-protection law) and from Google's own Advisory Council. The European Union's Data Protection Directive also includes a number of defenses against and exemptions from data-protection complaints. There is no reason to believe a clear set of principles will not emerge, especially as Google remains in close touch with Data Protection Authorities, even if more complex cases demand close and exhaustive inspection.

Google is meanwhile developing its own jurisprudence; for example, along with 79 other Internet scholars, I helped write an open letter to Google in May 2015 ( asking for more transparency, precisely to increase the public's understanding of how the process is administered, so researchers and other data controllers can learn from Google's experience.


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