Data Protection Report - Norton Rose Fulbright

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law the “right to be forgotten” legislation, which allows individuals in Russia to demand removal of a search engine’s links to personal information deemed irrelevant or inadequate. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2016.

Some parts of the law are similar to a recent EU ruling in Bazo Gonzalez v. Spain, in which the EU Court of Justice held that individuals have the right – under certain circumstances – to request that search engines remove links with personal information about them. There are, however, important distinctions between the European ruling and the Russian law that critics argue will limit Russians’ access to data of the highest public importance. For example, unlike the European ruling, the law extends the “right to be forgotten” to public figures. It specifically allows public figures to request the removal of their information. Thus the Russian law has been widely criticized by those who argue that it fails to strike a balance between the right to personal privacy and freedom of information.

Opponents also argue that the determination of the validity of users’ requests is in reality reduced to a value judgment, as there are no specific criteria to determine whether a requesting user’s information is “relevant” or “adequate” within the law’s meaning.

Exercising the “right to be forgotten” requires an individual to submit a request that refers to specific web pages that the user wants removed. Search engines have 10 business days to abide by the request. Search engines are not required to erase links to information about events which may constitute criminal offences for which the statute of limitations has not yet expired. This mandate has led to further criticism, specifically that it gives search engines the responsibility to decide whether certain nehavopurs are crimes.

The law does not yet contain any sanctions, but the State Duma plans to consider the penalties proposed by the draft law on the amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences in its Fall session. The proposed penalties are 100,000 RUB (around 2,000 USD) for initial failure to delete a link and 3 million RUB (around 60,000 USD) for failure to comply with the relevant court order. The size of the penalties is considered by many to be stringent and unjustified.

The effects of the new law and the potential amount of Internet users’ claims are unpredictable. Debate about the law is likely to continue.

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