Hate a Website About You? It's Not Google's Problem

Dennis Faas's picture

A European court says Google should only be forced to delete search engine listings in extreme circumstances. It's a blow to campaigners seeking a legal 'right to be forgotten.'

The court comments follow the case of a Spanish man whose home was repossessed in 1998. A local newspaper published a government announcement about an auction for the property.

That article remains online today and is among the first results when you search for the man's name using Google. He says the repossession is far in the past and wants the link to the newspaper article removed.

The man complained to Spanish data regulators that continuing to link to the document violated his right to privacy. The officials agreed and ordered Google to remove the page from its index, making it harder to find.

Linking to Sites Classed As Free Speech Issue

However, Google appealed the case. To help properly address the issue, Spain turned to the European Court of Justice, the senior court dealing with laws that affect all European Union countries. The court is often consulted on Internet matters.

The court asked a legal expert (known as an advocate general) to examine how European privacy laws covered the case.

The expert responded that, in most cases, it would be wrong to order a search engine to delete links and that in cases such as this the right to freedom of expression outweighed the right to privacy.

In fact, only in cases where information is incomplete, inaccurate, or libelous would people have a case for removing Internet links to a website.

Even then, however, in most cases the only option would be to go after the people behind the page rather than the search engine. (Source: pcworld.com)

Google Subject to Local Privacy Laws

The expert's comments will likely influence the Spanish appeal court's decision now that it's clear what would happen if the case did go as far as the European Court of Justice.

The comments don't represent a total victory for Google, however. The advocate general rejected the argument that foreign search engines are completely exempt from European privacy laws.

He said the fact that they accepted advertising from local firms meant they are governed by local laws and could face future challenges on other privacy issues. (Source: independent.co.uk)

Rate this article: 
No votes yet