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A right to be forgotten? Top EU court rules for lawyer who wants Google to delete some links

Posted May 13, 2014 7:34 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawyer who wanted Google to remove links to embarrassing legal notices from 1998 has won in the European Union’s top court.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice, based on a 1995 data-protection law, endorses a right to be forgotten, report the New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

The ruling was a response to a request for guidance by a Spanish court in the case of lawyer Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who wanted Google to delete links to a 1998 legal announcement in a Spanish newspaper about an auction of his property to recover social security debts. Costeja Gonzalez said the proceedings were fully resolved several years ago and reference to them was now irrelevant.

The court agreed. Google’s links to the information should be removed, the court said, because the information is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive” in relation to the purposes for which it was collected. The outcome would be different, the court said, if the lawyer played a role in public life, and the public’s interest in having access to the information justified interfering with his rights.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “All that wiggle room in interpretation may be the toughest challenge for companies who will now need to interpret the ruling." Courts across Europe "are now tasked with implementing the high court's ruling," the story says.

Google spokesperson Al Verney said the decision was "a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general."

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