Beijing court denies first ‘right to be forgotten’ case

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The Haidian District Court of Beijing recently denied an employee’s request to remove the link between his name and that of his previous employer, which has a reputation for being involved in fraud. This is the first case in China to deal with the “right to be forgotten”.

beijing-court-deniesThe employee worked for an educational institution in Wuxi from July 2014 to November 2014. In April 2015, the employee undertook a search on a website of an internet company that provides internet search services to the public, and found that by entering his name as a search term, the results included many references to the Wuxi company he had worked for, and that by entering the Wuxi company’s name, information about fraud was listed.

The employee sued the internet company and requested that it delete the link to some damaging key words, grant an aplogy and compensate his loss. The employee asserted that the Wuxi company had a negative reputation within the education industry. The employee alleged that the internet company had violated his right of reputation, right to his name and his right to be forgotten, which should be a part of his general personality rights, by linking his name to the Wuxi company.

However, the court ruled that there was no intention on the part of the internet company to humiliate or disparage the employee. The search results were automatically produced by the search engine based on algorithmic technology. Therefore the internet company did not violate the employee’s right to his name. The court further held that the information that the employee had requested to be deleted was directly related to him, and the right he asserted was not a part of the scope of personality rights provided in China’s Civil Code. In conclusion, the court rejected all of the employee’s claims.

In a separate privacy-related case in Guangzhou, a local court ruled that an employer had violated employees’ privacy rights by arranging for them to have a hepatitis B examination and then publishing the results.

Generally speaking, awareness of privacy concerns is increasing in China, particularly among employees. It The courts in China appear to be more willing to rule on cases involving privacy breaches.

Employers should ensure they follow the relevant data privacy legislation when dealing with employees’ personal information, particularly in light of the fact that employees are more prepared to protect their rights through the judicial process.