In an opinion piece published on June 25, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that American Internet search engine Google must abide by European law on the protection of personal data, reports Tagesspiegel, while adding that users of the service do not necessarily have a general “right to be forgotten”.
Google, which is not responsible for the content of third-party websites, is therefore under no obligation to remove personal data that appears in the search results it provides, even if this information is out of date or prejudicial to the interests of the individuals mentioned. The German newspaper continues —
For years, the defenders of personal data protection have battled with American corporations like Google, Facebook and Apple in a bid to make them abide by European law.
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To date, they have refused to recognise European law, on the pretext that they are headquartered in the United States. Now, the advocate general of the ECJ has decided that they must follow national legislation on the protection of personal data if they have a subsidiary in the member state concerned.
In its own report, La Vanguardia argues “the EU has ruled in favour of Google in the conflict over the right to oblivion,” now that the advocate general of the ECJ has decided that the removal of certain information in Google’s search results would amount to “censorship” of content published by private party. The Barcelona daily explains that with this opinion, the American Internet giant has “won the first battle”. It further adds —
Google and other search engines are not responsible for the protection of the right to oblivion on the Internet, and this right can only be exercised in very specific cases where the content is illegal or prejudicial to copyright holders, but not in the case of an individual who wants to erase his or her digital footprint.
The opinion was delivered in response to questions referred by the National High Court of Spain, which was called on to rule in case where Google appealed a decision by the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD). The agency had decided in favour of a citizen, who found personal data concerning him in a property advertisement published more than ten years earlier by La Vanguardia.
The ECJ, which is not bound by the advocate general’s opinion, will deliver its judgement in the coming months.
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