Google, a company of Alphabet, must erase information from internet search results if users can show that it is false, the European Union’s highest court said on Thursday.
The “right to be forgotten” online, which refers to the ability for individuals to delete their digital footprints from the internet, has caused conflict between proponents of free speech and privacy rights in recent years.
The case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) included two executives from a group of investment businesses who had sought Google to suppress search results tying their names to certain articles criticizing the group’s investment plan.
Additionally, they demanded that Google take thumbnail images of them off of search results. The corporation declined the requests, claiming that it was unsure of the accuracy of the material in the publications.
After that, a German court asked the CJEU for guidance on how to strike a balance between the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression and information.
The Court of Justice of the European Union stated that “where the person requesting de-referencing establishes that such information is obviously erroneous, the operator of a search engine should de-reference information discovered in the linked material.”
Judges stated that users only need to supply evidence that may fairly be expected of them to find in order to prevent placing an unreasonable burden on users. Such proof need not originate from a court ruling against website operators.
Google stated that the information has been offline for a very long time and that the aforementioned links and thumbnails were no longer accessible through a web search and image search.
A spokeswoman stated, “Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to find a reasonable balance between peoples’ rights of access to information and privacy.
The same court established the right to be forgotten in 2014, stating that persons may petition search engines like Google to erase inaccurate or unrelated content from web results that appeared under searches for their names.
The ruling establishes that the right to be forgotten is not applicable when the processing of personal data is required to exercise the right to information, and it came before important EU privacy legislation that took effect in 2018.