When used properly, the internet is a wonderful tool for knowledge, sharing, freedom of expression and much more. But some of its users may encounter the dark side of the internet, especially when they experience the dissemination of their personal data without their consent. This is an even more worrying problem given that once on the Internet, personal data is difficult to track and can be multiplied on different branches of the network.

Internet giants and legislators are well aware of this phenomenon and that is why for some years now, users have been given the right to request that their personal data are delisted on search engines. Delisting is the fact that when you enter an individual’s first and last name, the search engine no longer offers as a result the page from which the individual has requested delisting. This right emerged in 2014 following a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union requiring Google to delist an individual’s personal data.

  Crédit: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/fr/photos/bar-ipad-maquette-entreprise-621033/

Google offers a right to delisting on all types of personal data.

Until now, the right to delisting only applied in exceptional cases. Indeed, often personal data had to be sensitive such as health or judicial data. But on 27 April 2022, in a press release, Google announced the extension of this right to all types of personal data such as mobile phones, postal or e-mail addresses.


Google’s aim is to combat doxxing.

The reason for Google’s expansion of the right of delisting is manifold. The first is that Google wants to increase the possibility for individuals to control their personal data so that they in return give more confidence in the search engine. The second reason is that Google wants to actively fight against doxxing. Doxxing is a growing phenomenon that consists of revealing personal information about individuals on the Internet in order to harm them. It is a punishable practise but one which is difficult to track down given the scale of the internet, which is why delisting can be useful.

                                                Crédit: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/fr/illustrations/clavier-ordinateur-vider-privé-895556/


The need to balance delisting with the respect for freedom of expression.

According to the newspaper Le Monde, only about 13% of delisting requests are successful. The main reason for this finding is the need for search engines to respect another important right of our society: the right to freedom of expression. When access to information is restricted, freedom of expression is directly affected. This is why, in 2014 in the Costeja ruling, the European Court of Justice clarified that the right to delisting is a case-by-case analysis that must meet three requirements. These requirements are the nature of the information, its sensitivity with regard to the privacy of the person at stake and the public interest in having this information.

These conditions also apply to the new categories of personal data eligible for delisting. Thus, the only novelty brought by Google is the enlargement of the list, not the ease of benefiting from delisting.  Those who thought they would be able to delete all their personal data without justification may be disappointed, while freedom of expression may be reassured.


Cailin Van der zijden