Google can be forced to delete information
The internet never forgets. Especially not Google. It is common knowledge for anyone who has ever tried to "Google" themselves and found information or pictures, that they wish didn’t exist online. It might be a picture from that time when you dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween - with a scar in your forehead and a wand in your hand, or from that time you won the local sausage eating contest. Not very flattering - especially not if you’re at a job interview and your future boss checked your internet resume.
But things might be about to change, as the European Court of Justice (CJEU) has recently stated that persons have a potential right to ask Google (and other similar services) to remove personal information from its search engine.
The decision takes its start in a case from Spain, where Spanish citizen Mario González "googled" himself and found information that he thought to be violating of his personal rights. The information related to a foreclosure auction on his house, which was seized due to debt to the Spanish government. The foreclosure took place in 1998, and therefore Mario González found the information to be irrelevant and wanted it to be deleted.
Mario González filed a complaint with the Spanish agency for databases. He demanded that Google should delete the information, so that the information about the foreclosure no longer would appear when doing a search on his name.
The Spanish agency ruled in favor of Mario González and told Google to remove the information. But Google, highly upset about the ruling, decided to start a trial at the Spanish High Court to get the agency’s ruling annulled. The High Court decided to seek a prejudicial ruling from the CJEU.
And now the CJEU has made its decision. The Court determines that persons can have a right to get their personal information removed from search engines like Google. It is, however, a question of balancing the consideration of the person in question and the consideration of the public’s general interest in the information. The right to have information removed is no absolute right. The Court will have to determine which is more important - the person’s right to privacy and right to protection of personal information, or the interest of the internet users.
The ruling from the CJEU is based on a prejudicial question, and it is now up to the Spanish High Court to determine how they are going to interpret and apply the ruling in the trial between Google and Mario González.