Spain: Right to be forgotten and Google
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Deutsch: Spanien: Recht auf Vergessen und Google
The Spanish data protection authority (AEPD) has recently been focusing on a privacy-related campaign against major Internet intermediaries, accusing them to "have crossed the red line" in regard to protection of personal data on the Internet. Facebook, Google or Myspace are under scrutiny for their privacy policies and how they are respected.
On 17 January 2010, AEPD accused Google of invading personal privacy of users, arguing the company was in breach of the "right to be forgotten", the Spanish law allowing people to control information about them. The Spanish Authority ordered the search engine company to remove links to more than 100 Spanish online articles and to delete links to websites that contained out of date or inaccurate information about a specific individual that complained to the AEPD.
Google argues that deleting results "would be a form of censorship", that the company, as an intermediary, is not liable for the content of the materials it links to. Moreover deleting content is not the role of search engines but of publishers.
"We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator. Spanish and European law rightly hold the publisher of the material responsible for its content. Requiring intermediaries like search engines to censor material published by others would have a profound, chilling effect on free expression without protecting people's privacy," stated Peter Barron, Google's director of external relations for Europe.
But even if Google loses the case, the articles blocked by the search engine will still be available on the websites of the newspapers and journals that published the respective articles. However, Google will have to delete information about the concerned individuals from its Spanish site and respond to another 88 cases also brought to the Spanish regulator.
The case is closely followed by the European Union because its outcomes may have implications outside Spain, having in view that EU has already announced looking at how the application of the right to be forgotten is implemented in the online world. "Internet users must have effective control of what they put online and be able to correct, withdraw or delete it at will. What happens if you want to permanently delete your profile on a social networking site? Can this be done easily? The right to be forgotten is essential in today's digital world." said Viviane Reding, European Commission's Vice-president, in a statement made in November 2010.
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