Europe’s top court: people have right to ask Google, et al, to delete sensitive personal info


The case underlines the battle between advocates of free expression and supporters of privacy rights, who say people should have the “right to be forgotten” meaning that they should be able to remove their digital traces from the Internet.

The ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) came after a Spanish man complained to the Spanish data protection agency that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.

The case is one of 180 similar cases in Spain whose complainants want Google to delete their personal information from the Web. The company says forcing it to remove such data amounts to censorship.

Bottom line, the ruling says that if a search on your name results in a link to a site, you have the right to ask that that link be removed from the search results. Presumably, your request will be granted, now by law, if the link reveals personal info that you do not want made public.

This has big ramifications. Will Google, Yahoo, etc. appeal? I suspect they will. If this ruling stands, will it make its way to the US and other jurisdictions? Tough call.

  • MichaelQ

    I think silently Google’s biggest issue with it is it could potentially be a massive cost to service this that will eat into their margins in a big way.

    Can’t automate it – too much scope for abuse. Doing it manually will require huge man-hours with no cost recovery.

  • If it’s a public record, then no, it should not be removed. Embarrassment is not the only criterion. Public interest sometimes trumps a desire for privacy. But only when it’s legally supportable as a public record. Otherwise, Google shouldn’t think twice and remove it once the person confirms it’s them.

  • Mayson

    Interesting factoid: if you post a picture as your Google+ profile picture, it may never go away, even if you delete or replace it.

  • Jürgen Pöschel

    Appeal? To whom? This was the top european court.

  • dreyfus2

    What we see here is really just Europe, mainly the “old Europe” as defined by the fascist pissers represented by Bush’s idiot bastard son, Rumsfeld and Rice, returning to its original values.

    According to our values, unless you commit murder, the only crime that never lapses, everything else will be forgiven or expired at some point. And no corporation’s financial interests will ever be above the dignity of an individual.

    Of course, maintaining compliance here will cost Google et al serious money. But it is not the people’s fault that money for nothing was a shitty idea in the first place. And let’s be serious: Google has not developed a single original idea in their entire existence. They have always only existed on the content of others, and “expanded” by destroying others with the money made from stuff they do not own. The sooner they die, the better for everybody.