It was a surprise ruling, and a potentially disastrous decision for Google.
Earlier this week, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that Google should remove certain links about individuals that are damaging or malicious. The decision, which invokes a ‘right to be forgotten’ statute of European law, represents a potentially massive legal precedent that could bleed into media content.
Of course, Google has resisted similar attempts by outside parties to interfere with results, even if it contained wrong or destructive information about people. Back in 2011, for example, plastic surgeon Hugo Guidotti Russo campaigned vigorously to remove a damaging article about him in Spanish newspaper, El País, one that always appeared as the first result when searching his name.
The information doesn’t always have to be false. In another case, one individual fought to remove information about a bankruptcy proceeding that was resolved more than a decade ago.
“Even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where those data are no longer necessary in the light of the purposes for which they were collected or processed. That is so in particular where they appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to those purposes and in the light of the time that has elapsed.”
EU High Court Decision.
Google was ultimately forced to remove the link by Spanish regulators, but has been fighting the order (and others like it) for years. Outside of those rulings, individuals could only erase information by contacting the owner of the site in question, often an impossible task.