EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding gives a presss conference on June 26, 2013 to present a progress report at the EU headquarters in Brussels on how different EU member states are integrating Roma people. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
Viviane Reding, EU justice commissioner

Brussels’ top justice official says Google’s measure to implement the “right to be forgotten” is welcome after its years spent lobbying against European privacy laws.

Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, said officials would examine how Google’s application of the right to be forgotten would work in practice before commenting on it but stressed that it was a move in the right direction.

“It is a good move that companies are finally investing in compliance and in innovative solutions respecting privacy and data protection rights,” Ms Reding told the Financial Times.

The commissioner, who has been leading the EU’s overhaul of its pre-internet privacy rules, said Google co-founder Larry Page’s comments in the FT indicating that the group would spend more time talking to Europeans had come a little late but were welcome.

“This is certainly a smarter business plan than investing millions into lobbying against European laws,” she said.

Ms Reding said Google’s decision to create an online form giving internet users an easy way to censor links to outdated and damaging information about them undermined the group’s earlier warnings that applying the right to be forgotten would be practically impossible.

“We will now need to look into how the announced tool will work in practice, but the move demonstrates that fears of practical impossibility raised before were unfounded,” she said.

Ms Reding added that the right to forgotten would not trump that of free information, as she pointed out that there was a clear exemption to the rule for journalistic work.

“Finding the right balance is exactly the spirit of the ongoing EU data protection reform: empowering citizens to manage their personal data while explicitly protecting the freedom of expression and of the media. The freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in Europe’s Bill of Rights,” she said.

The French finance ministry added its praise for Google’s move. “Google has reacted quickly and has taken into consideration the European approach to the right to be forgotten. This is the start of a process to apply the decision taken by the European Court of Justice and to reach a balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression.”

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