EU Court: Google must remove Information from Searches if proven to be False
Google must remove data from online search results if users can prove they are inaccurate, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled.
Free speech advocates and privacy advocates have clashed in recent years over the issue of "people's right to be forgotten" online, meaning they should be able to remove their digital traces from the Internet, notes Reuters.
The case before the Court of Justice of the European Union concerns two executives of a group of investment companies who asked Google to remove search results linking their names to certain articles critical of the group's investment model. They claim that these articles contain false statements.
They also requested that Google remove their photos, displayed as thumbnails, from search results. The company denied the claims, saying it did not know whether the information in the articles was accurate.
Referred to this legal dispute, the Federal Supreme Court of Germany asked the Court of Justice of the EU to interpret the General Data Protection Regulation, which in particular governs the right to erasure ("the right to be forgotten"), as well as the Directive on the protection of natural persons in the processing of personal data and the free movement of such data in relation to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
According to the Court of the EU, "the person who operates an Internet search engine should remove from the search results the information included in the content to which it is linked, when the person who submitted the request proves that this information is manifestly false".
To avoid placing an undue burden on users, the judges said that such proof should not come from a judgment against website publishers and that users should only provide evidence that they could reasonably be expected to find.
However, the operator of the Internet search engine cannot be required to exercise an active role in the search for factual circumstances that are not supported by the request to be removed from the search results in order to determine whether this request is justified, the decision added.
In the event that the person requesting removal from search results submits relevant and sufficient evidence to support the request and which establishes the manifest falsity of the information included in the linked content, the Internet operator the search engine is obliged to honor this request to be removed from the search results.
As regards the visualization of photographs in the form of thumbnails (thumbnails), the court emphasized that when, following a search by name, photographs of the data subject are displayed in the form of thumbnail images, this visualization may constitute a particularly strong interference with the right to respect privacy and the right to the protection of that person's personal data.
The Court stated that when the operator of an Internet search engine receives a request to remove search results for these photographs, it must check whether their display is necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of information of Internet users who are potentially interested in accessing these photos.
In response to the decision, Google said that the links and images in question were no longer available through web and image searches and that the content had been offline for a long time.
"Since 2014, we have been working hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe and strike a reasonable balance between people's rights to access information and privacy," a spokesperson said.
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