Again?! Google called out by yet another EU country

Steven Loeb · March 2, 2012 · Short URL:

The question arises: Do people have the right to block search results exposing private information?


Here we go again. Google has once again found itself embroiled in a controversy over its privacy policy in Europe.

Only two days after a French agency declared Google’s new privacy policy to be illegal, Spain has now sent a request to the European Court of Justice to decide if it is legal for Spanish citizens to request to have their data removed from Google’s search engine.

The big issue behind the case is the so called “right to be forgotten,” or whether people have the right to block search results that would expose information that they would want kept private.

The case brought before the Spanish court was about a man who had his house foreclosed on. A notice for auction of the house appeared in a newspaper, and though the debt has since been paid, the foreclosure notice still appeared when the man’s name is typed into Google.

The Spanish Data Protection Authority sued Google and the newspaper on the man’s behalf to have the post removed, but dropped the case against the newspaper since "the information in the auction appeared in the newspaper should be maintained by having a legal justification." The case was brought before the Audiencia Nacional who have now referred it to the ECJ to make a ruling.

What the ECJ decides could have far reaching implications for all EU citizens. The right to be forgotten is not explicitly outlined by the EU, but Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed making it a law, and the decision by the ECJ on this case will no doubt have an impact on whether or not the law ultimately passes.

In it's request the Audiencia Nacional also asked the ECJ to decide "whether judges Community and national rules on data protection can be applied in this case or, if as claimed by the company Google Inc., the victims should go to court in California (USA) where the parent company is domiciled in the group."

If the ECJ sides with Google and forces any potential suits to take place in California, it will have a major impact on whether other Spanish citizens will even bother to sue Google if they must go halfway around the world to state their case.

When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson said, “We welcome the Spanish national court’s decision to refer this case to the European Court of Justice. We support the right to be forgotten, and we think there are ways to apply it to intermediaries like search engines in a way that protects both the right to privacy and the right to free expression.”


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