The European Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled against Google in giving individuals the “right to be forgotten” online, and force the company to delete private data by request in accordance with EU privacy laws.
According to reports Google is both “furious” and disappointed with the ruling.
The landmark ruling stems from a Spanish national’s 2010 complaint that a newspaper and Google were infringing on his right to privacy. After entering the man’s name into a Google search, the results would return with links to newspaper articles with real-estate auction announcements for the man’s repossessed home.
In the case the man argued that the personal matter had been resolved, and as such its digital record should be erased by both the newspaper and Google.
“The operator is, in certain circumstances, obliged to remove links to web pages that are published by third parties and contain information relating to a person from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of that person’s name,” the court said.
“The Court makes it clear that such an obligation may also exist in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.”
According to the court Google is held equally accountable as the original publisher for returning potentially private or offensive data, and can be compelled to remove such “irrelevant” and outdated content at the request of an individual — even if it was published legally in its original form.
The new ruling runs counter to a statement made last year by the European Court of Justice Advocate General, who said Google should not have to delete potentially sensitive information from its search results.
“This is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general,” Google said in a statement to The Verge. “We are very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the Advocate General’s opinion and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out.”
Google is reportedly taking “time to analyze the implications.”