Legal AlertUpdatesEvaluation of the Right to be Forgotten in light of Search Engines

23 November 2021

The Personal Data Protection Authority has Published the “Evaluation of the Right to be Forgotten in light of Search Engines” Guide.

The Personal Data Protection Authority published the Guide titled “Evaluation of the Right to be Forgotten in light of Search Engines” (“Guide”) on 20.10.2021.

The Guide has been prepared to clarify the exercise of the right to be forgotten before the search engines within the framework of the Decision of the Personal Data Protection Board dated 23.6.2020 and numbered 2020/ 481 (“Decision”) regarding the requests of individuals to remove from the index, their names and surnames and the results of searches made through search engines.

In the relevant Guide, firstly, explanations regarding the right to be forgotten and its development and the place of the right to be forgotten in international and national law are given.

In the Guide, it is mentioned that data can be easily recorded and stored for many years due to the developing technology, and it is stated that the data of data subjects not being tracked by third parties is important for the individual to continue living her/ his life freely. In this sense, by restricting (partially) access to the personal data of the individual by third parties; the “Right to be Forgotten” comes to the fore as an aspect of the right to protect personal data in order to ensure a dignified life, to prevent exclusion from society, and to start off with a clean slate.

The right to be forgotten, which is defined as “the individual’s ability to request that the data

which has been legally disseminated in the past and of a correct nature be removed from access or not brought up due to the passage of the time”, in other words, refers to the right of individuals to request the prevention of access to their personal data.

Although there is no legal regulation that conceptually includes this right under the title of “Right to be Forgotten” in Turkey, it has been stated that there are tools in our law to exercise this right. In this context; the Constitution, the Turkish Civil Code numbered 4721, the Law on the Protection of Personal Data numbered 6698 (“Law”), the Judicial Registry Law numbered 5352, and the Law on the Regulation of Internet Broadcasts and Prevention of Crimes Committed through Such Broadcasts numbered 5651 contain various tools for the establishment of the right to be forgotten.

Within the scope of the aforementioned Decision; considering that the search engines have a decisive role in the dissemination of data, some procedures and principles have been determined in terms of subjecting the names and surnames of the data subjects and the results obtained from searches to be made through the search engines in a non-indexable technical way. With the Decision, search engines have been accepted as data controllers within the framework of the definition in Article 3 of the Law, considering that they determine the purpose and means of processing the data they collect on the internet belonging to third parties.

Requests regarding the establishment of the right to be forgotten by the data subjects may be asserted to search engines within the scope of data processing conditions, as well as regarding the content processed and

disseminated by third parties without the condition of data processing. On the other hand, it is possible for the data subjects to request the removal of links related to their personal data from the search results under certain conditions, such as in cases where their data is incorrect, unsuitable, irrelevant or disproportionate for the purpose of data processing. In this context, since the right to be forgotten is not an absolute right that can be asserted by the data subjects under any circumstance, but an exceptional right, a decision is made by evaluation within the framework of criteria specific to each concrete case.

These criteria have been determined as follows:

  • The data subject playing an important role in public life
  • Child being the subject of the search results
  • The accuracy of the content of the data
  • Relevance of knowledge to one’s professional life
  • The data being of an insulting, humiliating, slandering nature 
  • The data being sensitive personal data
  • Currency of data
  • Data causing prejudice about the person
  • Data posing a risk on the person
  • Whether the data is published by the data subject herself/ himself
  • Content’s coverage of data processed within the scope of journalistic activity
  • Legal obligation to publish data
  • The data relating to a criminal offense.

In the continuation of the Guide, the methods of claiming rights of the data subject are taken into consideration, and it is emphasized that

within the scope of the requests of the data subject for the right to be forgotten, they should primarily apply to search engines pursuant to the provisions of the legislation.

You can access the full Turkish text of the Guide via the link below.