Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

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

  • Google must remove the names of ordinary people from their search-results on request, the EU's top court has ruled (Photo: Carlos Luna)

Google must remove information about ordinary people from their search results if requested by the individuals concerned, the EU's top court has ruled.

People have the right to request information be removed from search engine results if it appeared to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant", the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated in a judgement on Tuesday (13 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The decision was quickly welcomed by EU Justice commissioner Viviane Reding as "a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans."

The case rested on a complaint by Spaniard Mario Costeja González that search results for his name on Google brought up links to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia from 1998 including an announcement about social security debts he owed.

Costeja Gonzalez argued that the issue had long been settled and that the information was now irrelevant. In response, the Spanish data protection agency ordered Google to remove the data from their index, a position upheld by the Luxembourg-based Court.

"The Court holds that the operator is, in certain circumstances, obliged to remove links to web pages that are published by third parties and contain information relating to a person from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of that person’s name," the Court stated. It added that "if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is... incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased."

"Even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where… the data appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive."

The Court ruling appears to prove that 'a right to be forgotten' exists in EU law, a principle which EU lawmakers have been working on as part of plans to re-write the EU's data protection rules tabled by Reding in 2012.

Despite spending the last two years negotiating the reforms, which would update legislation agreed in 1995, government ministers and MEPs remain deadlocked on the reforms and there is little prospect of the legislation being agreed by the time Reding's term in office comes to an end in September.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday (13 May), Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva, welcomed the Court ruling but said that it demonstrated the need to press ahead with the new rules.

"The court ruling refers to rules which date back to 1995 - the pre-Internet age - and we need to clarify how the right to be forgotten applies in the online world," she said. "At the moment the consumer is responsible for providing the burden of proof that the data is unnecessary."

Google described the ruling as "disappointing", while the freedom of information campaign group, Index on Censorship, complained that the Court's decision would allow individuals to "complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight," describing this is "akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books."

Opinion

The Internet renaissance of the EU court

Two new cases on Acta sent to the EU court in Luxembourg could revive its role as an engine of European integration, writes Lassi Jyrkkio.

Exclusive

EU parliament to renege on transparency promises

Internal legal European parliament documents circulated Tuesday, and seen by EUobserver, rule it illegal to force MEPs to meet only registered lobbyists. The opinion will likely render a larger effort to create a mandatory register for lobbyists null and void.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary grants asylum to ex-Macedonia PM
  2. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  3. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  4. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  5. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  6. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  7. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  8. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  2. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises
  3. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  4. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  5. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  6. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  7. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  8. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us