Spanish Court Limits Scope Of EU's Right To Be Forgotten

from the more-clarity-needed dept

EU's 'right to be forgotten' is still relatively new -- the original ruling was made less than a year ago. Since then, the EU courts and companies have been trying to work out what it means in practice, which has led to some broadening of its reach. But an interesting court ruling in Spain seems to limit its scope. It concerns the following case, reported here by Stanford's Center for Internet and Society:

The claimant was a Spanish citizen who found that when typing his name on Google Search, the results included a link to a blog with information about a crime he had committed many years ago. While the official criminal records had already been cancelled, the information was thus still findable on the internet.
The Spanish Data Protection Authority (DPA) made two rulings. One was that Google should remove the information from its search engine, and the other was that Google should remove personally identifiable information from a blog hosted on its Blogger platform. When these decisions were reviewed by Spain's National High Court, it confirmed the first ruling, and clarified that Google needed to remove the link to the criminal records information from its search results. However, it did not confirm the second ruling:
The National High Court reversed that and held that the responsible for the processing is not Google but the blog owner. It further held that the DPA cannot order Google to remove the content within a procedure for the protection of the data subject's right to erasure and to object.
This is significant, because it says the "controller of the processing" -- a key concept in EU data protection law -- is the blog owner, not Google, and so the latter cannot be forced to take down a blog post. The Center for Internet and Society post notes:
Arguably, under the rationale that the platform is not the controller of the processing, other user generated content sites such as YouTube or social networking sites might also fall outside the scope of the right to be forgotten.
Well, not entirely outside the scope: presumably, search engines could still be required to remove links to user-generated content, but it would be the creator of that content that would be asked to remove it entirely, not the hosting company. Clearly, further cases will be needed to clarify how exactly this will work in Spain, and whether it applies anywhere else.

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Filed Under: blogs, eu, right to be forgotten, search engines, social media, spain
Companies: google


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2015 @ 3:13pm

    Which is easier way to be forgotten?

    A) Get the objected posting to be removed
    or
    B) Spend the rest of your life going after each and every current and future search engine

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Which is easier way to be forgotten?

      Or c: letting it be and allowing people to forget as they always do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 5:55am

        Re: Re: Which is easier way to be forgotten?

        Computers don't forget, though. Whether you like the law or not, that's the entire point of the law in the first place.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2015 @ 3:21pm

      Re: Which is easier way to be forgotten?

      An objection to this right, and especially removal of the original post is that it is stopping victims and others affected by an act from telling their stories.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 9 Mar 2015 @ 6:26am

        Re: Re: Which is easier way to be forgotten?

        True, but we all do stupid things. If the crime was low-level, such as vandalism, and our hero has lived an exemplary life since then, why should he spend the rest of his life answering for some dumb thing he did when he was younger?

        That said, it's worth contacting the blogger and asking politely that his name and identifying information be removed from the blog post. Most people are quite reasonable about these things. If the blogger says no, the smart thing to do is own up to the crime and create a Road To Damascus narrative on a blog post or social media status update to paint himself as a reformed character who Did That Thing Back Then But Is Very Sorry About It Now And Does Not Do Such Things These Days. That tends to go down well with the crowd. Nobody's perfect, after all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous coward, 7 Mar 2015 @ 5:05am

    Not that surprising

    The ruling isn't that surprising. Contrary to the popular belief the EUCOJ ruling doesn't limit the rights to free speech to a significant extent.

    The blog owner has his rights to free speech.

    The ruling basically says: "If you provide public access to a searchable database, which contains personal information, then you must ensure that the search result is held current and up to date. I.e. does not contain data which reasonably must be considered either: outdated, irrelevant or violating the privacy rights of a person"

    The Data Protection Laws in the EU makes it clear that virtually any data which *by someone* can be traced back to a real physical person is considered sensitive and is safeguarded by the Data Protection Act."

    Relevancy is a key topic in the Google ruling. For ordinary private citizens the definition on what is relevant is much stricter, than it is for public persons, e.g. politicians, artists, etc. who by virtue of their chosen profession has implicitly accepted a certain amount of publicity.

    In short this ruling does nothing, ecept confirm what we already knew.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2015 @ 8:02am

    No google for the EU?

    Perhaps the best decision is for Google to cut off the EU. Trying to go to Google.de? Sorry, Google content is not accessible from Germany. Please use google.us instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 8 Mar 2015 @ 1:08am

    The really disturbing part is the cancellation of the official criminal records. It distorts jurisprudence and thwarts background checks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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