David Davis welcomes the ruling that Google and other search engines must delete out-of-date information about individuals from internet search results across the papers
As published in The Daily Telegraph:
Google must delete old personal data, rule EU judges
Google and other search engines must delete out-of-date information about individuals from internet search results, European judges ruled yesterday.
The decision by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice opens the door for members of the public to have references to criminal convictions, youthful indiscretions or other embarrassing information scrubbed from the web.
Backing the principle of what has been described as “the right to be forgotten” on the internet, judges said people should be able to have search results about them deleted from Google if the content was “inadequate, irrelevant … or excessive”.
Anti-censorship campaigners warned it would allow people to “whitewash” their history.
Although the full impact of the ruling remains unclear, it could lead to search engine companies being inundated with requests for links to be deleted.
The decision only governs how search engines gather information and does not mean that individual entries on Facebook, Twitter and other social media will have to be removed.
David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, welcomed the ruling as a “sensible decision”. “The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use people’s personal information in any way they see fit is wrong,” he said.
“This is a sensible decision but it is only the first step in people having property rights in their own information.” Jodie Ginsberg, of the campaign group Index on Censorship, said the ruling was “retrograde” and threatened free expression and access to information. “This is akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books,” she said.
“By placing the onus on search engines… the court has said an individual’s desires outweigh society’s interest.” Javier Ruiz, of the Open Rights Group, said: “We need to take into account individuals’ right to privacy but if search engines are forced to remove links to legitimate content that is already in the public domain but not the content itself, it could lead to online censorship.”
The case was brought against Google by a Spanish man, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who was concerned that a Google search on him brought up two stories from the website of La Vanguardia, the Spanish newspaper, in 1998 concerning an auction of his property to repay social security debts.
Mr Gonzalez launched a legal action in Spain in 2010 demanding that La Vanguardia and Google remove details about him because the debt proceedings were “fully resolved”.
The Spanish data protection agency rejected the claim against the newspaper but it upheld the complaint against Google and its Spanish subsidiary.
Google appealed, and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice which has now upheld the original decision. It said allowing access to personal details through search engines indefi-nitely was incompatible with EU data protection directives.
Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP, said: “This ruling is a draconian attack on free speech and transparency. It highlights the increasingly authoritarian dimension to the EU.”
As published in The Guardian:
EU court backs ‘right to be forgotten’: Google must amend results on request
Individuals have right to control their data and can ask search engines to remove results, says European court
A European court has backed the “right to be forgotten” and said Google must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when a member of the public requests it.
The test case ruling by the European Union’s court of justice against Google Spain was brought by a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia.
González argued that the matter, in which his house had been auctioned to recover his social security debts, had been resolved and should no longer be linked to him whenever his name was searched on Google.
The European court judges ruled that under existing EU data protection laws Google has to erase links to two pages on La Vanguardia’s website from the results that are produced when González’s name is put into the search engine.
The European judges made clear that in their view the EU data protection directive already established a “right to be forgotten”. This appears to pre-empt lengthy negotiations within the EU over a new data protection directive which could establish a limited “right to be forgotten”.
The judges said they had found that the inclusion of links in the Google results related to an individual who wanted them removed “on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him personally to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time” was incompatible with the existing data protection law.
They said the data that had to be erased could “appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive … in the light of the time that had elapsed”. They added that even accurate data that had been lawfully published initially could “in the course of time become incompatible with the directive”.
In technical terms the ruling establishes that a search engine such as Google must be regarded as a “data controller” under the data protection laws in those EU countries where it establishes a branch to promote and sell advertising.
The case is the first of many in the pipeline against Google in which Spanish citizens want the search engine to delete personal information about them from their search results.
The EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the court’s decision, saying it was a clear victory for the protection of the personal data of Europeans. “The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world,” she said in a post on Facebook.
Google said: “This is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general. We are very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the advocate general’s opinion and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out. We now need to take time to analyse the implications.”
The British justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been a leading opponent of Reding’s proposals for an explicit EU “right to be forgotten”.
The Ministry of Justice has estimated that the European commission’s proposals could cost British businesses, which include many leading data and tech firms, £360m a year. The information commissioner has called the “right to be forgotten” proposals “a regime that no one will pay for”.
The justice minister Simon Hughes said in March that “it is clearly better that we take time to get this right rather than rush into something that proves unworkable and costly”. He said it was important that any new EU law would not impose costly rules that would jeopardise the growth of the digital economy.
Emma Carr, acting director of the privacy rights campaign Big Brother Watch, said: “The principle that you have a right to be forgotten is a laudable one, but it was never intended to be a way for people to rewrite history. Search engines do not host information and trying to get them to censor legal content from their results is the wrong approach. Information should be tackled at source, which in this case is a Spanish newspaper, otherwise we start getting into very dangerous territory.
“The regulators should be doing more to ensure that people have an informed choice over what data is collected about them by companies like Google, but if we start to make intermediaries responsible for the actions of the content of other people, you’re establishing a model that leads to greater surveillance and a risk of censorship.”
The ruling makes clear that a search engine such as Google has to take responsibility for the content that it links to and may be required to purge its results even if the material was published legally.
The EU judges pointed out that they were requiring Google to remove its links to two pages on La Vanguardia’s website even though the Spanish data protection agency had rejected González’s complaint against the newspaper and said it had published the information about him lawfully.
Data protection lawyers said the ruling could give the go-ahead to deletion requests of material including photographs of embarrassing teenage episodes and even insults on social media websites and could lead to a rethink in the way they handle links to content on the web.
Sarah Ludford, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman in the European parliament, said the ruling was gratifying. “Coming hot on the heels of the court’s strikedown of the Data Retention Directive, it is clear beyond doubt that the EU’s highest judicial authority stands squarely behind the European parliament and Liberal Democrats in strengthening EU privacy rights,” she said.
The former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis also described it as a sensible decision but said it was only the first step towards people having property rights over their own information.
“The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use people’s personal information in any way they see fit is wrong, and can only happen because the legal framework in most states is still in the last century when it comes to property rights in personal information,” he said.
As published in The Telegraph:
Google must delete your data if you ask, EU rules;
Europe’s top court has backed the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ but experts doubt it will work in practice
The European Union’s top court has ruled that data about individuals held by Google must be deleted on request.
Judges in the European Court of Justice ruled that Google cannot link to personal information about an individual, although the ruling only compels Google to remove the link rather than the removal of the information from the web itself. This means users of Facebook, Twitter and other social media can still share personal information about others so long as it remains online.
The European Court of Justice said an individual has the right “to be forgotten” when such personal data “appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purpose for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.”
The case underlines the battle between advocates of free expression and supporters of privacy rights, who say people should have the “right to be forgotten” meaning that they should be able to remove their digital traces from the Internet.
Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, called the ruling “a draconian attack on free speech and transparency, totally at odds with Britain’s liberal tradition. It highlights the increasingly authoritarian dimension to the EU, which threatens basic freedoms we have long taken for granted”.
David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, however welcomed the ruling as a “sensible decision”.
“The European Court has ruled that Google must give individuals the right to control their own data, and ask the owners of search engines to remove results,” he said.
“There will be a presumption that companies like Google must remove links to such information unless there are particular public interest reasons justifying the public in having access to the information. This is a sensible decision but it is only the first step in people having property rights in their own information. The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use people’s personal information in any way they see fit is wrong, and can only happen because the legal framework in most states is still in the last century when it comes to property rights in personal information.”
Lobbyists the Open Rights Group said they too believe that today’s ruling by the ECJ could pose a threat to free speech online.
Javier Ruiz, the group’s Policy Director said “We need to take into account individuals’ right to privacy but if search engines are forced to remove links to legitimate content that is already in the public domain but not the content itself, it could lead to online censorship. This case has major implications for all kind of internet intermediaries, not just search engines.” He added that today’s ruling goes against the opinion given by Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen last June when he said that Google should not be responsible for content published by third parties.
The judges said “If, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results”.
The EU moved to make the right to be forgotten law early last year, but it had not been tested in court. Under the legislation, embarrassing, inaccurate or simply personal data will have to be deleted from the internet and company databases if consumers ask.
The move also means that social networks such as Facebook or Twitter could have to comply with users’ requests to delete everything they have ever published about themselves online. It will also mean that consumers will be able to force companies that hold data about them, such as for Tesco’s Clubcard, to remove it.
At the time EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding claimed her “proposals will help build trust in online services because people will be better informed about their rights and more in control of their information”.
Concerns about the costs of implementing the new laws were compounded by added fears about what Facebook would do, for instance, when a user asked to have a picture of themselves removed, even though it had been taken by somebody else who wished to keep it on their page.
Today’s ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) came after a Spanish man complained to the Spanish data protection agency that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.
Mario Costeja Gonzalez was concerned that a Google search on him brought up two stories dating from 1998 from the website of La Vanguardia, the Spanish newspaper, concerning an auction of his real estate to repay social security debts.
The Spanish data protection agency rejected the claim against the newspaper which published the auction notice because the reports had been lawfully published, but it upheld the complaint against Google Inc and its Spanish subsidiary, saying the company should make it impossible to access the stories about Mr Gonzales through its search engine in the future.
Google appealed, and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice which has now upheld the original decision. It said allowing access to personal details through search engines indefinitely was incompatible with EU data protection directives.
The case is one of 180 similar cases in Spain whose complainants want Google to delete their personal information from the Web. The company says forcing it to remove such data amounts to censorship.
“An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties,” the court said.
Spain’s data regulator had previously said EU judges must consider if EU citizens have to go to US courts to exercise their privacy rights and whether Google “is responsible for the damage the diffusion of personal information can cause for citizens”.
Today’s ruling means anyone who wanted information about them removed from search results should be able to directly approach the operator, such as Google. If they fail to act, the individual should be able to go to a “supervisory” or judicial authority in their country, the judges added. Results may not have to be deleted if the individual is a public figure and there is a “preponderant interest” in the information remaining accessible.