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European Court Lets Users Erase Records on Web (NYT)
Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches, a ruling that rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet. Poynter / MediaWire If results display pages that are “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,” the search engine operator must remove them, the court ruled, even if the “publication in itself on those pages is lawful.” BBC News The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy. Google says it does not control data, it only offers links to information freely available on the Internet. It has previously said forcing it to remove data amounts to censorship. WSJ Some lawyers argue that the ruling will probably only be applied for searches done and displayed in Europe, and only for European data subjects, for instance, EU citizens or European residents. The court specifically said, however, that companies can’t get out of compliance simply by saying their servers are outside of Europe. The technology industry has rallied around freedom of speech, long a tenet of Western democracy but enshrined specifically in the U.S. Constitution as its First Amendment. Privacy-rights activists and many European officials have supported a competing notion: the “right to be forgotten.” Reuters The ruling creates technical challenges as well as potential extra costs for companies like Google, the world’s No. 1 search engine, and Facebook. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the rights of people whose privacy has been infringed outweighed the general public interest. Google said it was disappointed with the ruling, which contradicted a non-binding opinion from the ECJ’s court adviser last year that said deleting sensitive information from search results would interfere with freedom of expression.