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Dr. Michel Reymond on Finding Common Standards for the Right to be Forgotten

May 4th, 2016

Following the 2014 Google Spain decision rendered by the European Court of Justice of the European Union, search engines – and, first among them, Google – are tasked with the delisting of search results leading to outdated or inaccurate information about European citizens. This ‘right to be delisted’ has since then revealed itself as a highly controversial concept, raising issues such as the desired degree of protection of personal data over the Internet and the role of the act of forgetting in the digital age; it also highlighted the lack of an existing consensus over these questions between individual jurisdictions – and namely between the European Union and the United States.

On 14 April 2016, the European Parliament has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, which will, in two years from now, update and harmonize data protection law all across the Member States of the European Union. Its article 17 contains a ‘right to erasure’ or a ‘right to be forgotten’ which is set to formalize, unify and extend the existing Google Spain ruling.

But how to make that happen in practice? How can legal fragmentation be prevented? Relying on his background in conflict of laws, Dr. Michel Reymond shows that finding common standards for the Right to be Forgotten will prove extremely difficult – not only regarding its procedural elements, but also when addressing its substance. He also argues that, before even starting a conversation between the U.S. and the E.U., some soul-searching about the nature of the right may need to be performed inside the E.U. itself first.

About Michel

Dr. Michel J. Reymond is currently a visiting researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society under a stipend from the Swiss National Foundation. With a background in private international law and comparative law at the University of Geneva, his work is mainly centered on the relationship between regulation, competing legal orders, and the Internet. His PhD thesis, which was developed alongside Prof. Thomas Kadner Graziano, focused on defamation on the Internet in private international law. More recently, his topics of research have included wider issues about Internet regulation, and in particular the “right to be forgotten” decision by the European Court of Justice. Having served as assistant for 3 years at his home university, Michel J. Reymond is also dedicated to teaching and has notably coached local students for the Vienna Moot Court Competition.

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