Right to Be Forgotten: Ruling Recognizes Its Application in Uruguay

In today's digital age, one of the biggest challenges continues to be the protection of personal data and the right to privacy of individuals. The Internet stores - and allows the visualization of - innumerable personal data whose unlimited access, eventually, could affect the reputation, family or work life of people even years after its original publication.

For this reason, several countries have begun to expressly enshrine "the right to be forgotten", by virtue of which a person could request that their personal data (be it information, videos or images) be removed from search engines (for example, from Google) and other online sites.

Does Uruguay have the right to be forgotten?

In Uruguay, Law No. 18,331 (“Personal Data Protection Law”) enshrines the rights and duties of individuals with respect to their personal data, including the right to request rectification, updating or deletion thereof. in any registry or database. In addition, the law establishes that those responsible for databases must take adequate measures to guarantee the privacy and security of the data.

However, there is no specific law that enshrines the right to be forgotten in Uruguay.

In 2018 the discussion entered the orbit of the Judiciary. The plaintiffs pointed out that several news reports attributed to one of them the commission of an alleged crime, the complaint of which had been filed several years ago.

In 2022, the 6th Civil Court of Appeals (i) admitted the application of the right to be forgotten in Uruguay, and (ii) sentenced Google Argentina SRL and Google Inc. to "deindex" and unlink from their search engine, data and personal information of the plaintiffs (in judgment No. 193/022-6, confirming the judgment of the First Instance of the 2nd Turn Civil Court of Montevideo).

De-indexing consists of removing the link between the search performed (for example, the name of a person), and the results returned by the search engine (in this case, Google). In this way, the person's name would no longer be linked to certain Internet content, but the websites do not disappear, they lose visibility.

What are the main conclusions on the application of the right to be forgotten in Uruguay?

A. Consecration of the right to be forgotten. The Court understood that the right to be forgotten is transferable to our legal system as it is a corollary of constitutionally rooted norms (Articles 7, 72 and 332) and of the principles extracted from the Personal Data Protection Law. Likewise, various international instruments -ratified by our country- would also be applicable, such as: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art.12); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 17); and the American Convention on Human Rights (Art. 11).

B. Scope of the right to be forgotten. The Judgment indicates that everyone has the right to have their personal data not remain on the Internet permanently and indefinitely (which could “incite discrimination and permanent hatred”), and, for this reason, they can request the removal from search engines and other online sites. Although he affirms that it would be desirable for future legislation to be approved, the scope of the protection of the right should also be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, in order to correctly weigh the other rights "at stake" (to freedom of expression, access to information, etc.). As understood by the Court, the right does not imply "delete" or "cover or hide [the] information", but rather "involves the right of the person not to remain exposed or linked for life to these facts on social networks and the Internet ”.

Final thoughts

The discussion on the application of the right to be forgotten is far from being settled. However, it is clear that the main aspect of any analysis must necessarily consider a "balance" between the right to information, and the privacy and protection of the honor of people in general.

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Lucía Acosta's picture

PhD in Law and Social Sciences, graduated from the University of the Republic. LL.M with emphasis in Conflict Resolution (Distinction), Queen Mary University of London (United Kingdom), 2018. Scholar of the QMUL Latin American Scholarship.

Her practice focuses on pre-litigation dispute negotiations as well as complex litigation and domestic and international arbitration, with extensive experience in Corporate, Civil and Commercial Law.

She participated in important international seminars on negotiation, mediation and arbitration, and in March 2018 she was chosen to participate in the 4th Annual Investment Conference of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

In corporate matters, she has extensive experience advising Uruguayan and foreign companies in their daily activities and projects, contributing to the development of international strategies.

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