James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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EU court ruling opens door for ‘right to be forgotten’ on the internet

Google HQ in  Dublin. [Carlos Luna/Flickr]

Google HQ in Dublin. [Carlos Luna/Flickr]

Google could be forced to remove links to news stories about individuals from its search results, following a ruling today (13 May) by the European Court of Justice, backing the EU’s drive to introduce a “right to be forgotten” on the internet.

Judges in Luxembourg said that internet search engine providers were responsible for processing personal data appearing on web pages published by third parties, such as newspapers. The decision must be taken into account by national courts across the EU.

Even if the publication of that information on those pages is legal, the search engines could still be compelled by national regulators to remove the links if the data breached EU privacy law, the judges ruled.

The ECJ said that some links could become incompatible with EU privacy law overtime even if the initial processing of the data was lawful.

This “right to be forgotten” enables people to request web companies to delete personal information from their servers, and is part of a 2012 European Commission proposal to revise EU privacy law. It was adopted by the European Parliament and is now with the European Council to be scrutinised by member states.

If there was a preponderance of public interest in the data being available such as the person involved being a public figure, national courts could reject a request to remove the links, the judges said.

The ECJ said, “The effect of the interference with the person’s rights is heightened on account of the important role played by the internet and search engines in modern society, which renders the information contained in such lists of results ubiquitous.

“In the light of its potential seriousness, such interference cannot, according to the Court, be justified by merely the economic interest which the operator of the engine has in the data processing.”

Google had appealed an order from the Spanish data authority to remove information about a man whose home was auctioned off to pay for unpaid taxes. It is one of 200 cases where Spanish regulators have asked Google to remove content.

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2014 by in Google, Journalism and tagged , , , , , .

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