Friday

13th Dec 2019

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 20 years of archives. 30-day 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.

Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit

The Dutch prime minister and figures from the European Parliament are both piling on pressure for leaders at the EU summit to discuss the rule of law in Malta, as the presence of the island-nation's prime minister draws protests.

News in Brief

  1. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  2. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  3. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality
  4. Czech PM: nuclear energy needed for climate neutrality
  5. Hungary: Climate target is burden, EU should help
  6. Malta PM urged to step down ahead of EU summit
  7. France rolls out new pension scheme amid protests
  8. Germany accused of aiding war crimes in Yemen

Opinion

Does Malta's Labour Party now belong in S&D?

The Maltese Labour Party is a curious creature. No minister, MEP, MP, president, or former president has yet criticised Joseph Muscat publicly and outright over the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Exclusive

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' over EU-Vietnam trade deal

Right-wing Czech MEP Jan Zahradil is leading European Parliament negotiations on a trade deal with Vietnam. As rapporteur, he is supposed to be neutral but has neglected to declare his involvement in a group with ties to the Communist party.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  2. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  3. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks
  4. Europe needs to make mind up on relations with Africa
  5. Leaders face crucial EU summit for climate action
  6. Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit
  7. Von der Leyen: 'Green Deal is our man-on-moon moment'
  8. North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us