Chicago Journal of International Law

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The Court of Justice of the E.U.’s right to be forgotten ruling, which subjected search engines to the Data Protection Directive’s restrictions, was controversial from the moment it was delivered. Free speech advocates claimed that the ruling authorized needless censorship, while privacy rights advocates argued that the ruling provided much-needed privacy protection in the internet age. The right to be forgotten ruling is deliberately broad, yet reinforces the Directive’s journalistic exception to protect free speech. However, the CJEU’s failure to define the term “search engine” in its decision unintentionally allows the Directive’s exception to be circumvented. More countries outside the E.U. are beginning to express an interest in recognizing a right to be forgotten within domestic laws, it is important that the right to be forgotten’s scope be clarified sooner rather than later. A few countries are skeptical of recognizing a right to be forgotten due to its breadth, which could be made worse if the term “search engine” is not refined. While the right to be forgotten could be incorporated into existing international law, having search engines apply their right to be forgotten policies internationally is the most realistic way of meeting the growing demand. Therefore, these concerns must be addressed so that search engines can comfortably satisfy the global community’s need to protect citizens’ data privacy.