Google’s landmark defeat earlier in the month, where the European Court ruled that it must remove “irrelevant and outdated” search results, has triggered a debate between those who believe privacy on the internet is vital, and those who think that it is a threat to free speech and freedom of information.
Since the ruling, Google has been inundated with requests to take down information that individuals view as damaging. These include a request from an ex-politician who is seeking re-election and wishes to have any references to his past behaviour wiped, and a paedophile who has asked for links relating to his conviction to be taken offline. A doctor has also asked for negative professional reviews to be wiped.
A Spanish man who wished the details of a past repossession case over fifteen years ago to be wiped from his search results was the first case to be raised earlier this month. He believed the links were an infringement to his privacy and clouded other people’s views of him. The ruling in his favour came as a surprise as it contradicted the European Union’s advocate general who had previously said that search engines were not obliged to honour such requests.
Google described the outcome of the case “disappointing”.
EU Commissioner Viviane Reding called the outcome “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans”.
However free speech advocates at The Index of Censorship said the ruling “should send chills down the spine of everyone in the European Union who believes in the crucial importance of free expression and the freedom of information.”