European court establishes 'right to be forgotten' in Google case

EU court ruling: Censorship, or basic human right?

The European Union Court of Justice, in a decision involving search giant Google, has ruled  individuals should be able to request that "irrelevant" and outdated data be deleted. The case was brought by Spanish man Mario Costeja Gonzalez. Searching his name returned a 16 year old newspaper article about the repossession of his home to cover debts.

Google said the ruling was "disappointing" and stated they needed time to "analyze the implications." Because the search engine does not control the data, but rather provides links to information publicly available on the internet, the new law may require changes to the search algorithm.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Redding heralded the ruling as a "clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans." According to her, "The ruling confirms the need to bring today's data protection rules from the "digital stone age" into today's modern computing world."

The ruling appears to allow people to remove any information about themselves which they do not like, so long as it is not relevant to their "public life" (a politician presumably could not have all mentions of a scandal removed from Google results). Index on Censorship condemned the decision, saying it "violates the fundamental principles of freedom of expression," lacks legal oversight, and is akin to marching into a library to demand it pulp books.

The court said all requests to remove data must be directed to the search engine itself, which is charged with "assessing the merits" of the complaints before removing the offending information from its index.

Source: BBC | Gavel and symbol of European Union​ Image via Shutterstock

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25 Comments

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This is absolutely ridiculous and shouldn't have been allowed. The spanish man that started the fight decided to have a go at GOOGLE because they'd index a site with old information on him. And the EU court rules googles must remove this information - NOT THE SITE THAT HAD AND STILL HAS IT UP, JUST the search engine.

n_K said,
This is absolutely ridiculous and shouldn't have been allowed. The spanish man that started the fight decided to have a go at GOOGLE because they'd index a site with old information on him. And the EU court rules googles must remove this information - NOT THE SITE THAT HAD AND STILL HAS IT UP, JUST the search engine.

How is this any different than a DMCA takedown request?

OK, so if we think about this, right now, news about this story says "Mario Costeja Gonzalez bought the case because of old financial issues were affecting his life now". After this ruling takes effect, it will say "Mario Costeja Gonzalez bought this case because <REDACTED>".

Which one is more suspicious? :p

I like this actually, and not just because it's Google. I think people should have the right to have some control over what people find about them online. Now if only they would do something about those companies that sell your information to anyone, including stalkers and serial killers.

TAKEITBILL said,
Bing allows you to manage/delete saved data,interests, saved places etc. Unlike google.

Except this isn't about that.

Say I find out who you are and write a blogspot post about you that you feel doesn't accurately represent you.

Under this ruling, you could force google to remove that page from search results about you.

deadonthefloor said,
Except this isn't about that.

Say I find out who you are and write a blogspot post about you that you feel doesn't accurately represent you.

Under this ruling, you could force google to remove that page from search results about you.

People have the right to privacy. If there isn't any public interest in that information being online then people are perfectly entitled to seek it taken down. Note that this ruling doesn't apply to anything that is in the public interest.

Imagine this happening in real life. For instance, you fall over while in a store and the CCTV footage is produced into a DVD and sold for commercial gain. That wouldn't be considered acceptable, yet somehow people act differently when it comes to the internet.

theyarecomingforyou said,
People have the right to privacy. If there isn't any public interest in that information being online then people are perfectly entitled to seek it taken down. Note that this ruling doesn't apply to anything that is in the public interest.

Imagine this happening in real life. For instance, you fall over while in a store and the CCTV footage is produced into a DVD and sold for commercial gain. That wouldn't be considered acceptable, yet somehow people act differently when it comes to the internet.


You seem to be misunderstanding what actually happened here. This isn't about having the information "taken down". It's about having Google not return the site in search results. The site will continue to host the content, and be discovered through other means. Just one particular method of finding that particular page on that particular site is being micromanaged.

In your example, it'd be like the court telling IMDB to remove its record of that DVD, but the DVD would still be perfectly legal to distribute and sell on store shelves.

Joshie said,
You seem to be misunderstanding what actually happened here. This isn't about having the information "taken down". It's about having Google not return the site in search results. The site will continue to host the content, and be discovered through other means. Just one particular method of finding that particular page on that particular site is being micromanaged.

Actually the ruling goes much further than that. While this particular case related to Google search results the principle applies to all sites, meaning that individuals could go after the sites hosting the information.

This seems less about personal data and more about the EU making a "power" grab imo...

"Companies can no longer hide behind their servers being based in California or anywhere else in the world.
- Today's judgement is strong tailwind for the data protection reform that the European Commission proposed in January 2012 as it confirms the main pillars of what we have inscribed in the data protection Regulation
- No matter where the physical server of a company processing data is located, non-European companies, when offering services to European consumers, must apply European rules."

2 of the 3 of the top three from the "Heralded the ruling" link are about giving the EU power. Not personal freedoms or anything like that.

I'm at a loss to find the negative here...

Yes, companies will have to be subject to the laws of the country they do business in (irrespective of server location). This isn't a shocking move and is one that will slowly make its way around the globe...

It also isn't a bad one either... With more and more stuff being done online leaving this loophole would effectively reduce the power of any government to ensure its citizen's interests are being protected.

Removal of personal information is a hard challenge at the moment, but this may start us down a road where it becomes easier in the future. Companies are allowed to delete their information via DMCA requests so this is merely an extension of that to personal users.

LogicalApex said,
I'm at a loss to find the negative here...

Yes, companies will have to be subject to the laws of the country they do business in (irrespective of server location). This isn't a shocking move and is one that will slowly make its way around the globe...

It also isn't a bad one either... With more and more stuff being done online leaving this loophole would effectively reduce the power of any government to ensure its citizen's interests are being protected.

Removal of personal information is a hard challenge at the moment, but this may start us down a road where it becomes easier in the future. Companies are allowed to delete their information via DMCA requests so this is merely an extension of that to personal users.

I find this troubling because now Google is in charge of policing the internet done through their searches? That is a little ridicules. Things are public record and the public should have access to them.

This seems more like a step toward censorship than it does personal freedoms or "forgetting" ones past.

LogicalApex said,
I'm at a loss to find the negative here...
Exactly. The EU has always taken a strong stance on protecting the rights of the individual and this is another step in the right direction.

Companies like Google have no right to exploit people for their own corporate gain when it isn't in the public interest.

theyarecomingforyou said,
Exactly. The EU has always taken a strong stance on protecting the rights of the individual and this is another step in the right direction.

Companies like Google have no right to exploit people for their own corporate gain when it isn't in the public interest.

How is Google exploiting anyone? By indexing searches so people can find relevant information? I fail to see how this was an issue to begin with.

Scabrat said,

I find this troubling because now Google is in charge of policing the internet done through their searches? That is a little ridicules. Things are public record and the public should have access to them.

This seems more like a step toward censorship than it does personal freedoms or "forgetting" ones past.

Google doesn't list everything... Google removes results all the time... Be it for DMCA requests, violations of its policies, etc...

Scabrat said,
How is Google exploiting anyone? By indexing searches so people can find relevant information? I fail to see how this was an issue to begin with.

By exploiting people's personal information for its own profit. In this case someone wanted outdated and prejudicial information about themselves removed from Google and the company refused. It's an issue because it amounts to defamation.

This ruling protects the rights of individuals over corporations.

Scabrat said,
I find this troubling because now Google is in charge of policing the internet done through their searches? That is a little ridicules. Things are public record and the public should have access to them.
Google is in charge of its own search results.

theyarecomingforyou said,

By exploiting people's personal information for its own profit. In this case someone wanted outdated and prejudicial information about themselves removed from Google and the company refused. It's an issue because it amounts to defamation.

This ruling protects the rights of individuals over corporations.

Lol, its not defamation. It actually happened. Its a public record.