News / Europe

    In Madrid Court, Google Challenges Europe's Privacy Laws

    Google logo
    Google logo
    Lauren Frayer

    In a Madrid court, the technology giant Google is fighting a Spanish order to remove some data from search queries. The case centers on a principle of Spanish law known as "the right to be forgotten," and it's Google's latest clash with European privacy laws.

    Let's say someone accuses you of a crime. The local newspaper picks up the accusation, but then you defend yourself, and are proven innocent. Years later, that newspaper report may still exist somewhere on the Internet. Do you have a right to have it omitted?

    That's the question a Madrid court is debating, in a case between the tech giant Google and Spain's data protection agency. Spanish authorities filed 90 court orders against Google, on behalf of Spanish citizens who want links to libelous information about them dropped from Google searches. Here in Spain, their desire is enshrined in law, and called "the right to be forgotten."

    "The general argument is what we call 'derecho al olvido,' the kind of right to be forgotten, and it's based on the right of every single individual and citizen has to claim for his or her data to be used in a proper manner,” said Paloma Llaneza, a data protection lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs. “Just to explain it in a very simple way, when you are Googling someone and you are finding some information, what we ask is to delete, or to make not available that information through Google."

    Google did not respond to requests for an interview. But the company has issued previous statements saying it's not its job to censor the Internet. Google says it's your local newspaper's responsibility to eliminate any false reports - not Google's. The tech company refused the Spanish orders, and it's all being argued now in court.

    Llaneza says it's an issue of respecting Spanish law, if Google wants to do business here.

    "Maybe for Google sometimes it's difficult to understand,” Llaneza added. “There are different cultures all around the world. But the truth is, we very much care about privacy and about data protection. And especially because Google is addressing its services to the Spanish country. They are using a dot-E-S domain name, they are translating everything into Spanish and they are tailoring their services for our country. So they have to be prepared to comply with Spanish law - that's all."

    This is Google's latest clash with Europe's relatively strict privacy laws. The company is either in court or on the brink in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic as well, over how it collects personal information about users. Many of the complaints are about Google's "Street View" project - capturing images of nearly every street and house - that some governments feel violates property owners' privacy.

    Joel Reidenberg has been professor of information law in Paris and New York. He says most European privacy laws were written well before the Internet, and there's an inherent clash between privacy and the very nature of the web - free-flowing information that doesn't stop at national borders.

    "These problems will absolutely continue to come up, until one of two things happens: Either the technology companies begin to build architectures that enable compliance with existing law, or the law begins to change," Reidenberg said.

    Reidenberg says he thinks the sheer number of legal complaints about Google shows that European governments aren't likely to back down.

    "I think these are illustrations that the regulatory agencies are saying to the technology companies building business models around the use of personal information, that they must be adapting their technologies to make them privacy friendly," Reidenberg added.

    That's exactly what happened in Germany. Hans Kessler, a privacy law expert in Leipzig, says that after complaints about "Street View" there, Google set up a service through which residents could request that their houses be blurred out on the Internet.

    "So far there's no court decision, but there was an agreement between Google and data protection authorities in Germany,” said Kessler. “Google actually introduced a formal complaint procedure. Owners of houses or even just people living there, inhabitants, could file a complaint with Google, so they could enforce their right and the house would be pixilated, so it's no longer visible on Google."

    Kessler says Google was able to avoid litigation on the Street View issue, but he thinks German regulators are gearing up for more battles.

    "It's really the only way for the companies to avoid stricter regulations, though I really think there will be strict regulations,” Kessler added. “I'm not totally in favor of them, but there are so many feuds now on the Internet where we see efforts of the states to enforce stricter controls on the Internet."

    Llaneza, the Spanish lawyer, says she thinks some of these privacy battles are inevitable for big tech companies like Google.

    "There are advantages to being a worldwide company, but there are some disadvantages. You have to take into consideration domestic law," said Llaneza.

    A ruling on Google's case in Spain is expected within weeks or months.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.