The European Court of Justice has ruled that people have the right in certain circumstances to have information about them removed from Google.
The court said individuals have the right “to be forgotten”, where the information appeared “to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive […] in the light of the time that had elapsed”.
Mario Costeja González’s complaint against La Vanguardia and Google regarded the search results that appeared when his name was “Googled”.
The top results for his name included newspaper articles from the late 90’s in which La Vanguardia detailed the auction notice of his home after it had been repossessed in order to recover social security debts.
González argued that these articles on the La Vanguardia website were no longer relevant as the proceedings against him had long been resolved.
His complaint against the newspaper was not upheld as the information was lawfully published at the time.
However, the complaint against the search engine giant was upheld by the court.
It ruled: “Thus, if, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results.”
Google is now required to consider all removal requests. If declined, the requester can take their request to the relevant data protection authority.
A Google spokesperson said: “This is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general. We are very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the advocate general’s opinion and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out. We now need to take time to analyse the implications.”
There are currently over 200 cases waiting to be heard against Google that involve Spanish citizens.
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