European Court: Google Must Respect ‘Right to Be Forgotten’


Have you ever considered your “data protection rights” and how that relates to what sensitive information pops up when you Google yourself? This very issue is making news again, as the clash between “privacy” and “freedom of information” has taken a surprising turn in Europe.

A new court ruling says that Europeans do have the “right to be forgotten” and search engines like Google must remove certain unwanted links upon request. According to the ruling from the European Court of Justice, Google is no more than a “controller” of information and therefore, ultimately responsible for removing unwanted links if and when requested.

“An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties,” the judges said in a statement about the ruling.

The case centered on a man in Spain who wanted to remove web links related to his financial problems. He said he had resolved his debts and the information was no longer relevant. He complained that details about his old debts were coming up in Google search results, which he said violated his data protection rights.

But just days after the ruling, Google is apparently getting requests from criminals wanting links to information about their crimes removed.

According to The Economist, Google fears being flooded with requests to cut links: it handles more than 90% of all online searches in the European Union (compared with 68% in the United States). Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of people who think they are unfairly represented in search engine results.

What do you think? Is it appropriate for Google to be forced to remove links to information someone feels is no longer relevant? While this is a European ruling, do you think the same laws should apply in the United States?


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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.