The highest court in Europe ruled today that search engines can be ordered to remove links to news items available to the public from search results on the request of any person who wants outdated information removed. This decision was made by the European Union Court of Justice. This decision has resulted in a massive blow to Google, mostly in Europe.
The dispute began through Google Spain. The Spanish Data Protection Agency ordered Google to remove links to two articles published by Spanish newspaper La Vanguadia in 1998. Google attempted to appeal this order, resulting in this dispute.
The order was issued due to a complaint by a Spanish national to the AEPD back in 2010.The person discovered that searches for his name through Google linked users to two pages. These pages contained details regarding a real estate auction held to settle social security debts. The person felt this information was no longer relevant, which was the reason why the complaint was filed. The AEPD ordered Google to remove these links from search results, which Google appealed unsuccessfully as a result of the outcome of this case.
This ruling brings up the question of whether the 1995 Data Protection Directive can be used by a data subject such as the Spanish national to request links be removed to data by a massive search engine such as Google. This question was a key point in 2012 when Europe proposed the 1995 directive be overhauled. This means the right to such power over information may exist even before the update to the directive has been made law officially.
According to the European Union Court of Justice, “if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased.”
This is a very interesting case. Links to “dated” information online were officially removed by government order, which raises a valid question regarding what information should be easily accessible to any given internet user. The result of this case suggests that anybody who requests outdated information be removed should be able to have this happen. Needless to say, this outcome was not particularly desired by Google.