In a landmark case in Luxembourg, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today ruled that people have the right in certain circumstances to have information about them removed from search results. In the case involving a Spanish citizen, the court said individuals have the right “to be forgotten”, where the information being linked to appeared “to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive … in the light of the time that had elapsed”.
Mario Costeja González, had lodged a complaint against La Vanduardia, which is a Spanish daily newspaper, Google Spain and Google regarding 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 Vanduardia detailed the auction notice of his home after it had been repossessed in order to recover social security debts. Mr. Costeja González was arguing that these articles on the La Vanduardia 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 and other web publishers will now be required to consider all removal requests and 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 who want personal information about them deleted from the search results.