Tuesday, May 13, 2014

EU court asserts the "right to be forgotten" and rules that a Spanish man' can have 1998 news story of unfavorable financial history removed from search engine results (not from the original site)

A European Court has ruled that individuals have the right to expect search engine companies to remove results that refer to them, when they are old or aged and no longer relevant.  The case involves the “right to be forgotten”.  The case involved a Spanish man who wanted a reference to an auction and repossession notice from a local newspaper (La Vanguardia link) near Barcelona dating back to 1998.

The Guardian has a detailed story by Alan Travis and Charles Arthur here

Jimmy Wales of Wikpedia retweeted the item today, noting it was a blow to free speech.

The ruling seemed to look at Google as a “data controller” rather than a “neutral intermediary”.  It’s possible that the ruling could urge a similar push in the US.  

There have been comments to the effect that any fact published in a newspaper should always be searchable, as should any public record (which a foreclosure would be).

The text of the European Union Press release is here. This is case C-131/12 Google Spain v. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez.  The release reads "An internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appears on web pages published by third parties. Thus, if following a search made on the basis of a person's name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results."  .

That is (in Spanish), "Un operador del motor de búsqueda en Internet es responsable de la tramitación que se lleva a cabo de los datos de carácter personal que aparece en las páginas web publicadas por terceros. Por lo tanto, si a raíz de una consulta efectuada sobre la base del nombre de una persona, la lista de resultados muestra un enlace a una página web que contiene información sobre la persona en cuestión, que el interesado podrá dirigirse al operador directamente y donde el operador no conceder su solicitud, someter el asunto a las autoridades competentes con el fin de obtener, en determinadas condiciones, la eliminación de ese enlace de la lista de resultados."

A Wall Street Journal story mentions a continental European tradition based on "the right to be forgotten" as born of duels for honor in the 19th century, a custom which died out in the US early in that century and is not familiar to Americans or the law now.  

I will cover this story in more detail on my main blog Wednesday. 

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