Feeds

Google: Our 'freedom of expression' should trump punters' privacy

'Right to be forgotten' is overrated, huffs search giant

High performance access to file storage

Google has called on the EU's highest court to uphold its right to display links to published "valid legal material" in the face of calls from Spain's data protection authority to remove links on the grounds of privacy.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is due today to stage a hearing on a case in which it has been asked to rule whether it is lawful for search engines to be forced to delete information they do not create but display in search results.

According to a statement from the CJEU, the case before it was triggered when individuals complained to Spain's data protection authority (AEPD) about results that appeared in Google's search rankings. The AEPD ordered Google to "take the necessary measures to withdraw the data from their index and to render future access to the information impossible via their search engine" but Google and Google Spain both appealed against that order to the Spanish courts.

The Audiencia Nacional in Spain has, though, asked the CJEU to provide a ruling on aspects of EU data protection laws in order to enable it to make a judgment in the case. It has been asked fundamentally to determine whether Google can be considered a 'data controller' that is required to comply with the data protection regime.

Google has argued that as its search engine business is based in the US the EU's Data Protection Directive should not be applied to it. It has said that the fact it has a Spanish subsidiary is irrelevant because that business is only responsible for selling advertising on Google and has no role in the operation of the search engine itself," according to the CJEU's statement.

However, the AEPD has argued that Google is subject to the Directive's rules, should be considered to be a 'data controller' and should be required to "remove [personal data] when that data has been lawfully published on another website and is kept on the page from which it originates".

Under current EU data protection laws organisations are generally allowed only to collect and store personal data that is strictly necessary and proportionate for its purposes. Individuals have the "right to obtain, at his request ... the rectification, erasure or blocking of data which are incomplete, inaccurate or stored in a way incompatible with the legitimate purposes pursued" by organisations that hold their personal data.

This 'right to be forgotten' would be expanded upon under proposed new EU data protection laws drafted by the European Commission. Under the regime a specific qualified 'right to be forgotten' would be particularly specified and would give individuals a general right to force organisations to delete personal data stored about them "without delay". Organisations that make the data public would be liable for the data published by third parties and would be required to "take all reasonable steps, including technical measures" to inform them to delete the information.

However, organisations would be able to oppose the deletion of information if they could show they have a right to publish the data under the fundamental principle of freedom of expression or if it is in the public interest for the data to remain in existence.

In a blog about the CJEU hearing, Google called on the court to give greater weight to its freedom of expression rights than to the privacy rights of individuals. It said that the particular case referred to the CJEU from the Audiencia Nacional is one of approximately 180 similar cases currently before the Spanish courts.

"We were asked to remove links from our search results that point to a legal notice published in a newspaper," William Echikson, Google's head of free expression in European and the Middle East said of the case referred to the CJEU. "The notice, announcing houses being auctioned off as part of a legal proceeding, is required under Spanish law and includes factually correct information that is still publicly available on the newspaper’s website."

"There are clear societal reasons why this kind of information should be publicly available. People shouldn't be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice. The substantive question before the Court today is whether search engines should be obliged to remove links to valid legal material that still exists online. We believe the answer to that question is 'no'," he said.

"Search engines point to information that is published online - and in this case to information that had to be made public, by law. In our view, only the original publisher can take the the decision to remove such content. Once removed from the source webpage, content will disappear from a search engine's index. Of course, there will also be times when information is published online that is subsequently found by a court to be incorrect, defamatory or otherwise illegal. Such content can be removed from the source website and from search engines. But search engines should not be subject to censorship of legitimate content for the sake of privacy - or for any other reason," Echikson added.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.