Google must respect 'right to be forgotten', rules EU court

European Court ruled that Google can be asked to remove personal search results

Tags: Google IncorporatedLuxembourgPrivacy
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Google must respect 'right to be forgotten', rules EU court Google argued that it does not control the information it links to, only indexes it, and that amending search results amounts to censorship. (Getty Images)
By  Helen Gaskell Published  May 14, 2014

A European court has ruled that Google can be held responsible for the type of personal data that appears on its results pages and can now be asked to remove certain information, according to online reports.

Backing the ‘right to be forgotten', the European Union Court of Justice decided that individuals can ask Google and other online entities to edit or erase online search results if those results contain information that might compromise their privacy.

"If, following a search made on the basis of a person's name, the list of results displays a link to a webpage [that] contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly," the judges ruled. If the search operator refuses to change the search results, the person in question can "bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results."

The judgement was made on a case brought by Mario Costeja González from Spain, after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction of his repossessed home from 1998 on a website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia, the Guardian reported.

Google argued that it does not control the information it links to, only indexes it, and that amending search results amounts to censorship.

"In our view, only the original publisher can take the decision to remove such content," argued Google's head of Free Expression Bill Echikson last year. "Once removed from the source webpage, content will disappear from a search engine's index."

According to the Register, the Luxembourg court, which is presided over by 28 judges, each representing one of the EU member states, cited the 1995 Data Protection Directive. It said: "In today's judgment, the Court of Justice finds, first of all, that by searching automatically, constantly and systematically for information published on the Internet, the operator of a search engine 'collects' data within the meaning of the directive.

"The court considers, furthermore, that the operator, within the framework of its indexing programmes, 'retrieves', 'records' and 'organises' the data in question, which it then 'stores' on its servers and, as the case may be, 'discloses' and 'makes available' to its users in the form of lists of results."

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