News / Europe

Google Vindicated By EU Court Opinion on Search Results

A computer monitor in Berlin displays information about Google+ service, seen through a magnifying glass, June 29, 2011
A computer monitor in Berlin displays information about Google+ service, seen through a magnifying glass, June 29, 2011
Reuters
Google must respect EU privacy law but is not obliged to delete sensitive information from its search index, an adviser to the highest European Union court said, in a case that tests whether people can have harmful content erased from the Web.
 
The adviser backed the Internet search giant's position that it cannot erase legal content from the internet even if it is harmful to an individual. But he rejected the view of many U.S. internet firms that they are not bound by EU privacy law.
 
“Requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement setting out Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen's opinion.
 
While Internet-based firms operating in the European Union must adhere to national data protection laws, that did not oblige them to remove personal content produced by third parties, the statement said.
 
“Search engine service providers are not responsible, on the basis of the [EU's] Data Protection Directive, for personal data appearing on web pages they process.”
 
Lawyers agree that Google's search algorithms, which hunt and list weblinks based on how relevant they may be, would not be in a position to “know” whether data was personal or not.
 
“A search engine is just a tool,” said Eduardo Ustaran, a London-based lawyer from Field Fisher Waterhouse. “The nature of that information is irrelevant. It is just ones and zeros.”
 
A final judgment on the case is expected before the end of the year. Judges in the European Court of Justice are not bound by an advocate general's opinion, but follow such recommendations in the majority of cases.
 
The case stems from a complaint by a Spanish man that a public notice announcing that his home was up for auction after being repossessed infringed his privacy and should be deleted from Google's search results.
 
His case is one of 180 similar examples in Spain in which people have sought to have content deleted from Google searches. The other cases are on hold pending the EU court's decision.
 
The original auction announcement was from a Spanish newspaper, which said it was under a legal obligation to publish the notice.
 
Google welcomed the advocate general's opinion, saying it supported the company's view that deleting such content amounted to censorship.
 
“This is a good opinion for free expression,” said Bill Echikson, Google's head of free expression in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in an emailed statement.

The advertising business
 
But Internet companies may be disappointed at the opinion that they should follow EU privacy law even if the data is handled outside the European Union. Many internet firms maintain that handling data outside the 27-member bloc means they are not subject to EU privacy law.
 
The advocate general said that even the presence of an advertisings business, which is fundamental to the model of companies such as Google and which targets people in Spain, means they must follow EU law. If that view is upheld by the ECJ, it could put search firms under more pressure to protect the data of privacy-hungry Europeans.
 
EU to overhaul protection law
 
The European Union is finalizing a major overhaul of its 20-year-old data protection law that would make Internet companies follow EU rules if their services target European consumers.
 
The overhaul is part of a push for increased data privacy in Europe, which has gained urgency after revelation of a large-scale U.S. Internet spying program targeted at foreigners.
 
Google also faces fines in both Spain and France if it does not change its privacy policy, which allows it to collect and combine personal data across its services such as email and Youtube. Privacy watchdogs in several other countries are also assessing Google's services under their national rules.
 
The EU overhaul is also intended to give citizens “a right to be forgotten” even though it is not yet clear in what circumstances that right could be invoked. The advocate general said such a right does not exist in current legislation.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid