Google, the world’s most popular search engine, capitalizes on human curiosity by connecting users to seemingly infinite amounts of information. Though this may be incredibly helpful for users, it may also be detrimental to individuals about whom information is posted. The Court of Justice of the European Union sought to prevent detriment to these individuals in its May 13, 2014 decision to uphold Directive 95/46/EC, a European law protecting data on the basis of privacy, in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v AEPD. This case concerned Google-generated links to a newspaper article about the repossession of a Spanish man’s home. The ruling stated that Google must remove links to data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed” from the search results it posts after a query. In essence, this prohibits Google from posting links to information that is dated or irrelevant.
This ruling pits the right to privacy against freedom of information and functionally limits users’ ability to access certain types of information. This ruling has been heralded by individuals as a landmark for the right to privacy, colloquially referred to as the “right to be forgotten”. Conversely, many consider this a form of censorship.
Google has expressed concern about complying with this ruling and about the limiting effect on the dissemination of information.
In an effort to comply, Google posted a web form that allows European citizens to request the removal of a link. Thousands of Europeans have filed requests for links to be taken down.
Whether you agree with this holding on the basis of privacy or oppose it on the basis of freedom of information, the holding is not controlling in the United States. Though it is not binding, it may be a sign of issues to come in U.S. courts regarding the right to privacy in this heavily internet-reliant nation. Contact Garmo & Kiste, PLC at (248) 398-7100 for a free consultation or send us a private message.