Google Spain: Further Article 29 WP Party Comment (and No Comment)

June 8, 2014

The Article 29 Working Party had a ‘plenary meeting on 3 and 4 June and carried out its promise to have discussion concerning the Google Spain case (which it, not unreasonably but a little contrarily, refers to as the ‘Costeja’ ruling. 

The press release states that they have ‘decided to analyse the consequences of the CJEU ruling and to identify guidelines in order to develop a common approach of EU data protection authorities on the implementation of the ruling’ – which sounds suspiciously like they have not decided anything. The guidelines, when there are some, aim to help data protection authorities build a coordinated response to complaints of data subjects if search engines do not erase their content whose removal has been requested.

Consultations with ‘the relevant stakeholders’ (whoever they may be) will take place in due course.

In the meantime, the DP authorities ‘invite search engines to put in place user-friendly and pedagogical tools for the exercise by their users of their right to request the deletion of the search results links containing information relating to them. More generally, search engines should ensure compliance with the opinion of the WP29 on data protection issues related to search engines (WP148)’.

As regards Google, the Article 29 Working Party ‘welcomes the form swiftly developed by this company as a first step toward compliance with EU law following the CJEU ruling, even if at this stage it is too early to comment on whether the form is entirely satisfactory’. It is not clear why it is ‘too early to comment’, even in general terms, at what seems like a crucial formative point, but it may be ‘too early to comment’ because there is no agreement about what to say.

Apparently, this initial reaction to the Google response to the CJEU’s ruling ‘is to be seen in the wider context of on-going exchanges between the European data protection authorities and Google about compliance with EU data protection law’. This may be a not particularly subtle reference to the ‘privacy policy’ issue, after all the Chair of the Working Party is from CNIL, or may have gone over the web site editor’s head.