A court has ruled that ordinary people have a “right to be forgotten” online and has ordered Google to amend some of its search results.Links to outdated or irrelevant information should be removed from search engines’ indexes, the European Union’s Court of Justice said.
It ruled that Google and other search engines had control of individuals’ private information, and said people have the right to request that their information is “forgotten”.
People “may address such a request directly to the operator of the search engine … which must then duly examine its merits,” the ruling said.
Whether or not the request should be granted will depend “on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary,” it said.
The standard is different for public figures, judges said, who should expect more of their information to be displayed online.
Google had argued that it does not control personal data, saying it just offers links to information already freely and legally available on the internet.
It had also argued that it should not be forced to play the role of censor, especially when it offers links to information that was legally published.
The case was referred to the European court by Spain’s appeal court, the Audiencia Nacional, which has fielded 200 similar complaints.
The leading case was from Spaniard Mario Costeja who said that when his name was Googled it threw up references to an advertisement for a property auction related to an unpaid Social Welfare debt.
Costeja and the agency argued that the debt had been settled and that the reference should be removed.
The advert had originally appeared in a Spanish newspaper and was tracked by Google’s robots when the newspaper digitalized its archive.