Recently, Google has been involved in a conflict with users claiming for their personal data to be removed from the browser. The story started 2 years ago, when a Spanish citizen typed his name in Google and the browser provided to him links where he appeared as a debt holder against the Public Administration. The debt had been paid at that time, by selling his goods at public auction. Indeed, the debt had existed but it had been paid off, and the citizen required Google to delete that information because he considered it was prejudicial. In its reply, Google alleged that that information was lawful and public.
Then, the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEDP) intervened and brought the case to the National High Court, and thereafter to the Court of Justice of the European Union (EUCJ), where around 140 similar cases have been joined.
The right that initially claimed this citizen is called “right to digital oblivion” and nowadays it does not have a specific regulation, although it can be comprised by the right to privacy and honour. When the Spanish Data Protection Agency alleged that that right had been infringed, Google defended its right to freedom of expression. The company argued that if compelling it to remove that information, would lead to a censorship, and users would stop trusting it as their baseline browser. Therefore, Google has suggested that the citizens who consider that they have been damaged by lawful information published on the Internet, should request to the Website where the information was originally disclosed to delete it. This seems to be the only way of removing personal data permanently from the Internet.
Finally, on June 25, 2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union has issued a decision on this matter, stating that Google has no obligation to eliminate any content under user’s request. Hence, for the moment, the right to oblivion has no specific protection, so users only have two options: addressing to the original source where their personal data have been stored in order to being deleted by the Website owner; or hiring the services of companies specialized in removing every personal trace left by users along their lives in the cyberspace.
Written by Rocio Sirvent