The European Court of Justice has ruled in favor of a citizen’s “right to be forgotten.” The decision means that under certain conditions, search engines such as Google will be obliged to eliminate results that appear when searching for the name of an individual.
The ruling will have a direct effect on around 200 Spanish cases involving people who want to be “forgotten” online, and whose requests had been stuck at the High Court until the Luxembourg judges reached their decision.
The case also stems from a protracted battle between Google and the Spanish Data Protection Agency, over the case of an individual who wants a result to be eliminated when searching for his name on the basis that the information is outdated and no longer relevant.
From now on, removal requests must be made directly to the search engine
From now on, anyone interested in having certain search results removed must make their request “directly” to the search engine company in question (Google, Yahoo, etc.), which must then decide case-by-case whether there is a justified basis for the request. If the petition is denied, the party may then turn to the courts for help.
The Luxembourg court’s decision contradicts a preliminary statement made in July of last year by the Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, Niilo Jääskinen, who said that Google could not be considered responsible for the treatment of the data contained in the web pages that it processes.
Now, however, the court has decided that the search engine is indeed responsible for the information inside the web pages it lists.
The ruling contradicts an earlier statement by the Advocate General of the European court
The ruling specifically involves questions raised by the Spanish High Court over the case of the lawyer Mario Costeja, who turned to the data protection agency six years ago to get Google to eliminate a search result showing a La Vanguardia newspaper article linking to property auctions. Costeja’s name showed up as having had a property repossessed for defaulting on Social Security payments in 1998. But the matter had already been resolved, and Costeja felt that it had no public relevance anymore.
When the Spanish Data Protection Agency asked Google to eliminate the result, the California giant turned to the country’s High Court, marking the beginning of the long European court battle.