EU ruling targets search engine links
Q: What was the ruling?
A: The European Court of Justice, the closest thing the European Union has to the Supreme Court in the U.S., ruled that Google and other search engines must respond to user requests to remove links to personal information that turn up in searches of their name. It did not say Google must remove all such links, just that people can make a complaint which Google and its peers in the world of Internet search have to answer. The Luxembourg-based court said an individual’s right to privacy has to be weighed against the public’s interest in accessing information.
Q: What prompted the case?
A: The case began with a Spaniard seeking to have outdated information about himself removed from the Internet. In 2010, Mario Costeja asked for the removal of links to a 1998 newspaper notice that his property was due to be auctioned because of an unpaid debt. Google protested, saying it should not have to censor links to legal and publicly available information. A top Spanish court asked the European court for an interpretation of how European privacy law applies to search engine results, and got a broader ruling than it had asked for.
Q: What is the impact?
A: The immediate impact will be on 200 cases pending in the Spanish courts, which will now be decided in light of the European ruling. Any similar European cases could be impacted by Tuesday’s ruling, too. There is also now a real potential that many more European citizens will exercise the right to challenge search engine results for their name.
Q: Who is affected?
boldA: The court’s ruling applies to European Union citizens. It is not clear how Google will implement the ruling, since its search engine is geared to weigh links, not examine content. Google said it will need time to analyze the implications.