When The European Court of Justice ruled last month that Google should erase “inadequate” “irrelevant” or “no longer relevant” information about a person from its search results, opinions were divided. Many felt that the “right to be forgotten” ruling was a victory for the individual against the internet giant, others felt it was a dangerous threat to free speech. Now a Government minister has waded in on the argument, claiming that Britain will become similar to a repressive regime like China if it does not abandon the ruling.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat justice minister, told a House of Lords committee that the ruling is “impractical, impossible and…a nonsense”.
Mr Hughes said that the “right to be forgotten” was not helpful, and that it was in the public interest to keep material online.
He told peers: “I don’t think both as an individual and as a minister that we want the law to develop in the way that’s implied by this judgment, which is that you close down access to information to the EU which is open to the rest of the world.
“I have fought for the rights of Tibetans over the years and we have criticised the government of China for closing down people’s right to information. There are other countries that restrict information access. It’s not a good position for the EU to be in to look as if it is countenancing restrictions in the access of the citizen to information. It sets a bad precedent.”
Britain will seek to have the ruling dropped in a new European directive, however it will not be agreed until 2015 and even then it will take years to implement. So it seems that the “right to be forgotten” will be around for some time yet.