Friday

1st Mar 2024

Google urged to stick to European court privacy ruling

  • Google has recieved 120,000 requests to remove names from its search engine (Photo: Carlos Luna)

Privacy campaigners are urging Google to respect a European court ruling on the "right to be forgotten" as the Internet giant tours European capitals to debate the issue.

Google chief Eric Schmidt in Italy on Wednesday (10 September) moderated the second leg of the Google advisory council, a panel of eight experts appointed by the firm to help it implement the controversial verdict.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Luxembourg-based EU court in May concluded it was reasonable to ask Google to amend searches based on a person’s name if the data is irrelevant, out of date, inaccurate, or an invasion of privacy.

The original content remains untouched and can still be found online via Google (or any other search engine) by typing in different search terms.

The court also said it is up to Google, or any other search engine, to handle the requests itself.

“There are complicated issues at stake in the requests that we are receiving and we need to balance the right of information against an individual’s right to privacy,” said Schmidt.

The debate is intensifying in the run-up to the publication of a working document by European data protection regulators on how the search engines need to handle the requests.

Privacy campaigners on Tuesday complained some media have misunderstood or distorted the court’s ruling in favour of Google.

In an open letter to the Google’s advisory council, around a dozen pro-privacy NGOs note the case is not about the "right to be forgotten", a term they point out was never used in the court’s judgement.

“The media coverage created the mistaken impression that Google would have to start deleting information from the internet (or its own index) whenever EU citizens asked the search engine to do so,” says the letter .

They note that Google, on its own initiative, already removes content, de-indexes links, and regularly alters search results to comply with various domestic US copyright laws.

Last year, the company pulled 214 million links from its search engine out of a total of 235 million requests, according to Brussels-based European Digital Rights (EDRi)

“This has become a campaign against European data protection,” EDRi’s head told this website over the summer.

Since the May ruling, Google has fielded around 120,000 requests to remove the names of people in search results, sparking debates on freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

“Frankly, we need some help on these decisions. We didn’t ask to be appointed the decision-maker, we were ordered to be the decision-maker, and I have publically said that I did not particularly like that order,” noted Schmidt.

Google can reject the requests and refer the issue to national data protection authorities.

Reuters reports 90 such appeals have been filed in Britain, 70 in Spain, 20 in France and 13 in Ireland.

Panellist Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford, asked “should we trust a private company running the search engine to operate on the links or should we trust a governmental agency to decide about these links?".

Also invited to the debate, Massimo Russo, chief editor at Wired Italia magazine, argued the rights of individuals should not prevail over the interest of the Internet user.

“Most content on social networks and social media should be deleted altogether if this opinion prevails, so the key issue is the public interest,” he warned.

EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds

The European Commission has legally paved the way for Poland to access up to €137bn EU funds, following Donald Tusk's government's efforts to strengthen the independence of their judiciary and restore the rule of law in the country.

Latest News

  1. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  2. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  3. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  4. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  5. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  6. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  7. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  8. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us