European Court Says Google Is Not Responsible For Deleting Personal Data

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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An adviser to the European Court of Justice says Google cannot be held responsible

Google and other search engines are not responsible for the appearance of users’ personal information on web pages they process, an advisor to the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Niilo Jaaskinen was advising the court on a specific case dating back to 2009, made by a Spanish man who objected about links to an article discussing how his debts had led to his house being repossessed.

Since the issue had been resolved more than a decade earlier, he felt that they were no longer relevant and should be removed. A complaint with the Spanish data protection agency was upheld and the case moved to the European court.

The right to be forgotten

Google-Privacy-Policy-featuredHowever Jaaskinen said that Google could not be obligated to delete such data on the basis of the EU Data Protection Directive issued in 1995. The court is not obliged to accept his opinion, but such recommendations are usually followed and a final judgement is expected before the end of 2013.

“A national data protection authority cannot require an internet search engine service provider to withdraw information from its index except in cases where this service provider has not complied with the exclusion code or where a request emanating from a website regarding an update of cache memory has not been complied with,” he wrote.

Jaaskinen’s report could influence a wider “right to be forgotten” debate currently occurring within the EU, which is preparing to update the directive, which was published before many of the developments on the Internet could be predicted.

Google privacy woes

“The Directive does not establish a general ‘right to be forgotten’”, he wrote. “Such a right cannot therefore be invoked against search engine service providers on the basis of the Directive, even when it is interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

Google’s privacy policies have repeatedly come under fire from a number of organisations, with EU privacy regulators warning that it could face punishment unless it complies to a list of demands within three months after it was found to have breached the French Data Protection Act.

It did receive a piece of good news last when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that it would not be imposing a fine on the company for its Street View cars collecting data from people’s Wi-Fi connections.

This is the second time that the ICO has declined to penalise Google, despite a number of other regulators punishing the search giant.

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