Business Technology

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Google must amend search results at public's request, EU rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued a ruling on Google search results
The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued a ruling on Google search results

A European court has ruled that Google must amend some of its search results at the request of members of the public when they show links to outdated, irrelevant information.

In an important test of the "right to be forgotten", the Court of Justice of the European Union said Google and other search engines have control of individuals' private information, given that they sometimes compile and present links to it in a systematic way.

In an advisory judgment stemming from a Spanish case, the court found that under European law, individuals have a right to control over their private data, especially if they are not public figures.

If they want irrelevant or incorrect personal information about themselves "forgotten" from search engine results, they have the right to request it, even if the information was legally published.

People "may address such a request directly to the operator of the search engine ... which must then duly examine its merits", the ruling said.

Whether the request should be granted will depend "on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject's private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary", it said.

Google must remove links to pages containing the information from results "unless there are particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, justifying a preponderant interest of the public in having access to the information when such a search is made", the court said.

Google had argued that it does not control personal data, it just offers links to information already freely and legally available on the internet. It also argued that it should not be forced to play the role of censor, especially when it offers links to information that was legally published.

The case was referred to the European court by Spain's appeal court, the Audiencia Nacional, which has fielded 200 such complaints.

The leading case was from a Spaniard named Mario Costeja who said that when his name was Googled it threw up references to an advertisement for a property auction related to an unpaid social welfare debt.

Mr Costeja and the agency argued that the debt had long been settled and the reference should be removed.

The ad originally appeared in a Spanish newspaper and was tracked by Google's robots when the newspaper digitalised its archive.

Press Association

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