The European Court has won a landmark privacy case against Google, ordering the search giant to delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” content from its search results.
The case was brought to court by Mario Costeja Gonzalez who had been unsuccessfully trying to secure the deletion of a repossession notice dating back to 1998. According to Gonzalez, the matter of his repossessed home had been resolved and was no longer relevant, however, every time someone searched for him on Google details of the repossession, which had been published in a mass circulation newspaper La Vanguardia, came up in the search results.
Gonzalez told The Guardian: “Like anyone would be when you tell them they’re right, I’m happy. I was fighting for the elimination of data that adversely affects people’s honour, dignity and exposes their private lives. Everything that undermines human beings, that’s not freedom of expression.”
Judges in the case had found that links in the Google results that 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” were incompatible to existing EU data protection laws.
They went onto rule that even accurate data that had been published lawfully could “in the course of time become incompatible with the directive.”
The case means that Google will now have to act as a “data controller” in countries covered by the EU data protection laws. It also means that the people wishing to bring a case against Google to clear any “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data about themselves will have to form an orderly queue.