Spain’s Google privacy case “an interference with the freedom of expression”
25 Jun 13

Should search engines be forced to block results that link to newspaper articles? No, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice said earlier today, deciding Google need not block “legal and legitimate information that has entered the public domain”. Brian Pellot writes

The case arose after Google refused to comply with orders from the Spanish Data Protection authority, which demanded that the search engine remove results pointing to an auction notice for a repossessed home. A man complained that the search results infringe on his right to privacy and asked that the results be removed.

The Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen said in his opinion that while the web giant is required to adhere to privacy laws, it is not obliged to remove information posted by third parties. “Requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression of the publisher of the web page”.

Google said today’s opinion is good for free expression. Company officials said Jaaskinen’s statement supports their “long-held view that requiring search engines to suppress ‘legitimate and legal information’ would amount to censorship.”

Index CEO Kirsty Hughes welcomed the opinion.  “It would threaten freedom of expression and information if search engines were required to censor legitimate information that is already in the public domain. The responsibility for content should lie with the original publisher and not an intermediary”.

Google estimates that there are 180 cases similar to this one in Spain alone. A final decision in the case is expected before the end of this year.


Google is an Index on Censorship funder.