Case C-131/12 Google right to be forgotten case [2014]

Case C-131/12 Google Spain v AEPD (Google right to be forgotten case) [2014]

Facts

  • A Spanish citizen has been involed in a tax dispute in the 1990’s, which an only newspaper had published a story about at the time
  • Whenever the citizen searched for himself on the Google search engine, that article was surfaced, to his objection given that he had been cleared of any charges

Issue

  • Could Google be required to remove the link to the newspaper’s website, irrespective of the fact that it was a lawfully published website page?

Decision

  • Yes

Reasoning

  • Irrespective of where Google’s databases were stored (not in EU countries), as Google had a subsidiary (Google Spain) dedicated to advertising, Google Inc was bought into the jurisdiction of EU law
  • Search engines are clearly processors of data under the 1995 Data Protection Directive
  • Under that same directive, Google was also a data controller – a controller of personal data
  • As a result, EU citizens have a right to be forgotten against search engines such as Google, such that links could be removed where information held by a search engine is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive
  • The above test is a question of fact, to be balanced on a case by case basis amongst other competing rights

Opinion

  • This case neatly illustrates a political, not lawful, decision
  • It firstly strings together a series of tenuous links: jurisdiction->data processor->data controller->right to be forgotten (see Advocate General’s opinion, which established that Google was not even a data controller)
  • Secondly, the case fails to deal with Google’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of establishment
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Posted in EU Law Revision Notes.

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