EU court opinion on search index vindicates Google

Written by Reuters | Brussels | Updated: Jun 26 2013, 09:02am hrs
Google is subject to 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 erase harmful content from the Web.

The advisers opinion vindicates the internet search giants position it cannot erase legal content from the Web even if it is harmful to an individual. But the opinion also rejected the view of many 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 court said in a statement communicating advocate general Niilo Jaaskinens opinion. Jaaskinen said that while internet firms operating in the European Union must adhere to national data protection legislation, that did not oblige them to remove personal content produced by others.

Search engine service providers are not responsible, on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, for personal data appearing on web pages they process, the statement said.

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 the advocate generals opinion, but follow such recommendations in the majority of cases.

The opinion follows a complaint by a Spanish man that an auction notice of his home after it was repossessed infringes his privacy and should be deleted from Googles search results. It is just one of 180 similar cases in Spain to have content deleted from Google searches. Those cases are on hold pending the EU courts decision.