Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

EU Court to Determine if People Googling Themselves Have the Right to Censor Search Results

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, February 27 2013

Google Spain.

If an Internet user sees that their reputation is getting tarnished online, should they have the right to request that the data be removed from search results?  That’s the premise of a case from Spain that the European Court of Justice will be deliberating over the next several months, after the country’s highest court ruled that Google was responsible for the spread of the harmful information. 

The case arose after a Spanish man found search results under his name that stated property he owned was up for auction after nonpayment of social security.  The Spanish Audiencia Nacional upheld his complaint in early 2012.  As Reuters reported, Google challenged the case last year and appealed to the EU court yesterday, citing the questionable precedent that the Spanish ruling establishes.  If search engines are given responsibility for withholding content, they could effectively become “controllers” policing the Internet. 

This is a responsibility that Google doesn’t want to have.  In a blog post on Tuesday, William Echikson, Google’s Head of Free Expression for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, stated the company’s case against blocking search results in these cases:

There are clear societal reasons why this kind of information should be publicly available. People shouldn't be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice.

Google’s quiet compliance with some aspects of government censorship in China raises a paradox about the precedent for this case, though in the EU, the company maintains that it will uphold freedom of expression over individual privacy.  The appeal comes as the EU considers legislation that will give citizens greater control over online privacy, including the data companies are collecting on them.  The court will announce their ruling in June, and will also determine whether Google, which is based in California, is subject to EU law. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Overreaching

Why the FCC balked at the Comcast-TimeWarner deal; Sheryl Sandberg wants Hillary Clinton to lean into the White House; the UK's Democracy Club brings a lot more information to election season; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Ownership

"Tell us more about your bog"; the shrinking role of public participation on campaign websites; "Aaron's Law" has been reintroduced in Congress; is the Comcast-TimeWarner merger on its last legs?; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Bush League

Presidential candidates hiding behind Super PACs; what this means for American democracy; demos at the White House; a demand for Facebook to be more open about news in the newsfeed; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Glass Half Full

A new Pew study on open government data in the US; the FOIA exemption ruffling transparency advocates' feathers; social media bot farms; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Zucked Up

Mark Zuckerberg responds to criticism of "zero rating" Facebook access in India; turning TVs into computers; how Facebook is changing the way UK users see the upcoming General Election; BuzzFeed's split priorities; a new website for "right-of-center women"; and much, much more. GO

More