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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid