Europe’s top court struck a blow for the "right to be forgotten" Tuesday, ordering Google to delete search results shown to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” at the behest of members of the general public.
In a landmark decision, the Court of Justice of the European Union said the search giant and others must listen and sometimes comply when individuals ask for links to newspaper articles or websites containing personal information to be taken down.
The test case — initiated by the case of a Spanish man who failed to get Google to delete information about the auction of his repossessed house — underlines the battle between advocates of free expression and supporters of privacy rights, who say people should have the right to remove their digital traces from the Internet.
The court found that under European law, the rights of people whose privacy has been infringed outweighed the general public interest. It said individuals have a right to control over their private data, especially if they are not public figures. If they want irrelevant or wrong personal information about themselves "forgotten" from search engine results, they have the right to request it — even if the information was legally published.
People "may address such a request directly to the operator of the search engine ... which must then duly examine its merits," the ruling said.