Germany: Constitutional Court issues decision on right to be forgotten
The German Federal Constitutional Court ('the Constitutional Court') published, on 9 July 2020, a decision balancing the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression of the press in a case dealing with the reporting of a criminal act a publicly-known person had committed in the past. Specifically, the Constitutional Court outlined that the plaintiff complained about a newspaper article detailing his attempt to deceive in a bar exam several decades ago, claiming that the reporting would violate his right to be forgotten. Moreover, the Constitutional Court examined how to balance the right to freedom of expression of the press and the right to be forgotten, finding that there is no deadline for the ability of the press to report under the right to freedom of expression, after which an event cannot be reported on anymore.
In particular, the Constitutonal Court found that the lawfulness of the reporting depends on the form and content, whether the report singles out one specific person for a common failiure that several people have committed over the time, whether the reporting on the mistake is persistent, and whether the information was easily accessible or required for lengthy research. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court put specific focus on the examination of whether the data that is reported on is part of the plaintiff's private sphere and whether the reporting leads to an unacceptable restriction of their personal development through an accusatory tone. Finally, the Constitutional Court also took into account whether the plaintiff voluntarily seeked to stand in the public sphere on other occasions.