Spain: Right to be forgotten and Google

By EDRi · January 26, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Spanien: Recht auf Vergessen und Google |]

The Spanish data protection authority (AEPD) has recently been focusing on a
privacy-related campaign against major Internet intermediaries, accusing
them to “have crossed the red line” in regard to protection of personal data
on the Internet. Facebook, Google or Myspace are under scrutiny for their
privacy policies and how they are respected.

On 17 January 2010, AEPD accused Google of invading personal privacy of
users, arguing the company was in breach of the “right to be forgotten”, the
Spanish law allowing people to control information about them. The Spanish
Authority ordered the search engine company to remove links to more than 100
Spanish online articles and to delete links to websites that contained out
of date or inaccurate information about a specific individual that
complained to the AEPD.

Google argues that deleting results “would be a form of censorship”,
that the company, as an intermediary, is not liable for the content of the
materials it links to. Moreover deleting content is not the role of search
engines but of publishers.

“We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator.
Spanish and European law rightly hold the publisher of the material
responsible for its content. Requiring intermediaries like search engines to
censor material published by others would have a profound, chilling effect
on free expression without protecting people’s privacy,” stated Peter
Barron, Google’s director of external relations for Europe.

But even if Google loses the case, the articles blocked by the search engine
will still be available on the websites of the newspapers and journals that
published the respective articles. However, Google will have to delete
information about the concerned individuals from its Spanish site and
respond to another 88 cases also brought to the Spanish regulator.

The case is closely followed by the European Union because its outcomes may
have implications outside Spain, having in view that EU has already
announced looking at how the application of the right to be forgotten is
implemented in the online world. “Internet users must have effective control
of what they put online and be able to correct, withdraw or delete it at
will. What happens if you want to permanently delete your profile on a
social networking site? Can this be done easily? The right to be forgotten
is essential in today’s digital world.” said Viviane Reding, European
Commission’s Vice-president, in a statement made in November 2010.

Building Trust in Europe’s Online Single Market Speech at the American
Chamber of Commerce to the EU Brussels – Viviane Reding speech (22.06.2010)

Google fights Spanish privacy order in court (20.01.2011)

Google fights Spanish court order over libel (17.01.2011),,14771969,00.html

AEPD Director warns that the large Internet company has crossed “several red
lines” of the respect to privacy (only in Spanish, 12.2010)

Google search engine, ripe for judgment (only in Spanish, 22.01.2011)