Europe's highest court tells Google people have the right to be 'forgotten'

By Daniel S Levine,

The highest court in the European Union told Internet giant Google Tuesday morning that people have the right to be “forgotten” and have information they don’t want public pulled from the search engine.

The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg told Google that if someone asks to have information updated or made private, the company must do so, reports USA Today. “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 justices ruled.

According to Reuters, the case came about after a Spanish man complained that Google searches of his name would bring up a 1998 article about his home being repossessed. The man sought to have the right to have this information pulled and the court ruled in his favor.

Of course, the ruling may bring up complicated logistical problems for the most popular search engine in the world, Google. The company, along with other sites like Facebook, may face extra costs to erase specific requested data.

If asked, Google will have to erase “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed,” according to the court.

“Today's court judgment is a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans,” Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, said in a statement. “Companies can no longer hide behind their servers being based in California or anywhere else.”

Google said it was disappointed by the ruling. “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 analyze the implications,” Google spokesman Al Varney stated.

The ruling follows a 2012 European Commission proposal that people have the right to be “forgotten” on the web. In 2013, the European Parliament toned that down to the “right of erasure.” The next step is support from all 28 EU member states.

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