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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora