Last week the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Google and other search engine providers can be ordered to accept delete me requests by the public.
These delete me requests can be submitted by anyone in the public who wants Google and other search engine providers to forget them by removing search results referring to their names.
The Court ruled on Google’s appeal against a decision of the Spanish data protection authority. They ordered that any search engine provider must examine such requests thoroughly to determine if the information displayed about the person is still relevant. If it isn’t, the links to webpages containing that information must be removed.
The Court said that “search engine operators collect that personal data by searching automatically, constantly and systematically for information published on the Internet,” and that “they also process that information when the data is stored on the search engine’s servers and disclosed through a list of search results. The fact that search engines carry out the indexing without distinction in respect of personal data does not matter”.
Google have said they were “very surprised” by the ruling and that “this is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general.” Free speech activists reacted angrily to the court’s verdict which could guarantee individuals a “right to be forgotten”. Currently Google offer the users the right to ‘manage your online reputation’ but it has announced it needed time to “analyse the implications”. The company argued that it was not in control of the content and merely linked information to it.
It is unknown exactly how the ruling for delete me requests will be enforced considering the amount of online data and internet users.