By EDRi

In a case opposing the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) and Google
Spain, Niilo Jaaskinen, the Advocate General of the European Court of
Justice (ECJ ), issued on 25 June 2013 his opinion that, on the basis of
the Data Protection Directive, search engine service providers are, in
principle, not responsible of personal data appearing on web pages they
process.

AEPD requested Google Spain to remove results regarding an auction
notice for a repossessed home, based on a complaint from a person who
had claimed that the search results were infringing on his right to
privacy and who had asked for the removal of the results. Google Inc.
and Google Spain have refused to comply with the AEPD’s order and have
brought two appeals before the Audiencia Nacional (the Spanish National
High Court) to ask for the annulment of AEPD’s decision. The Spanish
Court referred the case to ECJ.

“Google is not generally to be considered as a ‘controller’ of the
personal data appearing on web pages it processes , who, according to
the Directive, would be responsible for compliance with data protection
rules. In effect, provision of an information location tool does not
imply any control over the content included on third party web pages.

It does not even enable the internet search engine provider to
distinguish between personal data in the sense of the Directive, which
relates to an identifiable living natural person, and other data. In his
opinion, the internet search engine provider cannot in law or in fact
fulfil the obligations of the controller provided in the Directive in
relation to personal data on source web pages hosted on third party
servers,” said Niilo Jaaskinen in his opinion who therefore concluded:
“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 of the publisher of the web
page.”

Google officials said Jaaskinen’s statement supported their “long-held
view that requiring search engines to suppress ‘legitimate and legal
information’ would amount to censorship.”

Index CEO Kirsty Hughes shared this opinion: “It would threaten freedom
of expression and information if search engines were required to censor
legitimate information that is already in the public domain. The
responsibility for content should lie with the original publisher and
not an intermediary”.

Court of Justice of the European Union PRESS RELEASE – Advocate
General’s Opinion (25.06.2013)
http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2013-06/cp130077en.pdf

Opinion of Advocate General Jaaskinen – Case C131/12 – Google Spain SL
Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) Mario
Costeja González (25.06.2013)
http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-131/12

Judging freedom of expression at Europe’s highest court (26.02.2013)
http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.be/2013/02/judging-freedom-of-expression-at.html

Spain’s Google privacy case “an interference with the freedom of
expression” (25.06.2013)
http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/06/jaaskinen-search-engines-not-required-to-block-access-to-legitimate-information/