Internet Law

ECJ: Privacy and the right to be forgotten by Google

Should Google be forced under privacy grounds to delete the names of private individuals from its search index? In other words, should individuals have the right to be forgotten by Google?

The right to be forgotten. © arahan-Fotolia

The right to be forgotten. © arahan-Fotolia

Right to be forgotten by Google

The question of whether individuals should have the right to be forgotten by Google is currently before the European Court of Justice.

The case concerns the owner of an apartment whose full name had been published in an article by the online edition of a Spanish newspaper.

The article provided details about the auctioning of the apartment after the owner had not paid his taxes. The owner complained to the Spanish data protection authorities on the grounds that Google should delete his personal data. Both Google Spain and Google Inc. were ordered to remove the apartment owner’s name from its search index and to ensure that access to it would be denied in future.

Google appealed the authorities’ decision and the case was referred by the highest Spanish administrative court to the ECJ.

The ECJ will have to decide whether the EU’s data protection directive (95/46/EG) can be interpreted in such a way as to give individuals a right to have their personal data deleted.

Arguments were heard by the ECJ on 26th February 2013, but a final decision has not yet been reached.

The question which presents itself, is whether search engines like Google can be held responsible for legal infringements contained in all of their links. This would be problematic for Google as links are automatically entered in the search index.

The ECJ’s decision could have far reaching consequences as individuals could obtain the right to be forgotten by Google in entirety.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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