European Union Search Engine Privacy Ruling Effects Millions
This week, the European Union’s highest court ruled that “a search engine like Google should allow online users to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time by erasing links to web pages unless there are ‘particular reasons’ not to.” This ruling, which affects EU’s 500 million citizens, pushes the brakes on the web’s free flow of information that many assumed would remain online permanently. The court said, “search engines were not simply dumb pipes, but played an active role as data controllers,” and must be held accountable for the links they provide. Search engines could be compelled to remove links to certain pages, it said, “even when the publication in itself on those pages is lawful.” The court also said that a search engine “as a general rule” should place the right to privacy over the right of the public to find information. It was reported that Google was “disappointed” and “very surprised” by the ruling.
The ruling runs counter to the First Amendment in the United States, because it placed the right to privacy over the right to speech. Search engines may have to develop a complicated mechanism that may grant European Union Citizens certain functions.
This case began when a Spanish Lawyer, Mario Gonzalez did not like that his debts and tax problems from 1998 appeared after he searched his name on Google. Ironically, he won the right to erase his search results but the high profile case will memorialize his tax problems forever.