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lockIn a decision that will have big data usage implications, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that users have the right to request Google remove search results which contain private, or otherwise sensitive data. The search engine giant will be obliged to remove the data, “…unless there are particular reasons not to, such as the result and its data is in the public interest”, however how that would be determined was not addressed.

The case came up after a complaint from a Spanish citizen claiming that search results detailing a home repossession infringed upon his privacy. He, along with the Spanish data protection agency, argued that since the debt had been settled years ago the reference should be removed. The idea of the ‘right to be forgotten’ is from a law in the Brussels doctrine that says people “…should not be damaged by discussion of their mistakes or misjudgments in the distant past.” Obviously applying this idea to current technology presents a number of ethical, along with logistical, and administrative issues. As a privacy advocate I’m especially interested in situations like this, so I’m especially looking forward to the Big Data Ethics talk that Neil Richards and Jonathan King will present this year at Stampedecon. I hope it prompts more discussion on the evolving impact of big data on user’s privacy.

Photo Credit: By Montillona (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons