Google Loses Case Against EU Court: What to Know About the 'Right to be Forgotten'

european court/ costeja gonzalez
Caligraphy expert witness Mario Costeja Gonzalez speaks on his mobile phone outside a court in Barakaldo June 25, 2013. Internet companies can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search engine results, Europe's top court ruled on May 13, 2014, in a case pitting privacy campaigners against Google. The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of Spanish citizen Costeja on Tuesday, who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home. Picture taken June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Vincent West

The European Court has ruled that individuals have the right to contain and remove their personal data on Web search engines. Insufficient and irrelevant data can now be eliminated as per request.

The Court of Justice of the Europian Union (ECJ) approved the complaint of a Spanish man named Mario Costeja González. He objected seeing Google searches of his name with results tracing back a 1998 newspaper article about the auction notice of his repossessed home.

González said his previous issue with his home repossession has already been resolved, arguing it should no longer be searchable on Google.

"Like anyone would be when you tell them they're right, I'm happy. I was fighting for the elimination of data that adversely affects people's honour, dignity and exposes their private lives. Everything that undermines human beings, that's not freedom of expression," González said, in a report from The Guardian.

The EU court judges ruled under existing data protection laws, the Spanish man's related articles and results must be erased in Google's search engine. The judges cited there is already an existing EU data protection clause, which contains "the right to be forgotten."

Google found the ruling unfavorable. "The search engine said it does not control data, it only offers links to information freely available on the internet. It has previously said forcing it to remove data amounts to censorship," BBC reported.

Google had the upper hand of the legal battle in the case's early stages. But it surprised them when the ruling turned against them, and currently put them at a standstill. The EU court awaits the search engine company if it will still make an appeal to the ruling.

Political pundits and watchers said even if the ruling was beneficial for the Europeans, the judgment could also have major consequences. Not everyone favored EU's court decision. Campaign group index on Censorship said it "violates the fundamental principles of freedom of expression. It allows individuals to complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight," quoted the same report.

'Right to be Forgotten'

In 2012, the European Commission released a draft  EU Data Protection Regulation that includes specific protection in the right to be forgotten:

1. It allows people to request personal data online to be erased. 2. Online service providers are required to comply by its rules. 3. The plans are part of a wide-ranging overhaul of the Commission's 1995 Data Protection Drive.

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the recent ruling encourages the EU to strengthen its efforts in upholding privacy rules.

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