Court of Justice of the EU's judgment in the Google Spain case on the right to privacy and protection of personal data on the internet presented at the conference by I. Ņesterova (Ph.D.)
Participation in the international conference
The international conference "European Integration and Baltic Sea Region: Diversity and Perspectives - 2015" (dedicated to the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union) was held at University of Latvia on 11-13 June 2015 in Riga, bringing together participants from different fields such as economics, management science, law, political science, sociology, regional, social sciences and humanities.
Irēna Ņesterova lawyer from Valters Gencs Law Firm made a presentation on the right to privacy and protection of personal data on the internet: implication of the Google Spain judgment.
Court of Justice of the EU’s judgment in the Google Spain case on the right to privacy and protection of personal data on the internet
On May 13, 2014 the Court of Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) adopted a judgement in case C-131/12 Google Spain.
The complaint was brought by Mr. González, a Spanish national, against a publisher of a Spanish daily newspaper and against Google Spain and Google Inc. The complaint related to the fact that when he entered his name in Google Search, the list of results would display links to pages of the newspaper, mentioning Mr. González in connection with bankruptcy proceedings. As these proceedings had been fully resolved for many years, he wished to put those matters behind him. The Spanish Data Protection Agency rejected the complaint against the newspaper, taking the view that the information in question had been lawfully published by it. At the same time, it requested Google to take the necessary measures to withdraw the data from their index and to render access to the data impossible in the future. Google brought actions before Spanish court, which referred the questions to the CJEU about the interpretation of the Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data as well as about the Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter).
First, regarding the applicability of EU data protection rules, the CJEU found, that Google as the operator of the search engine is a controller of personal data and therefore it must ensure that its activity complies with the EU requirements when handling personal data. Regarding the territoriality, the CJEU pointed out that EU rules apply to search engine operators if they have a branch or a subsidiary in EU Member State which promotes the selling of advertising space offered by the search engine. Google Spain, a subsidiary of Google Inc. on Spanish territory, is such an “establishment” and therefore bound by the EU law. Regarding the responsibility of the operator of the search engine, the CJEU found that an individual may in the light of the right to privacy and personal data protection set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter request search engines to remove links to web pages containing personal information or data from the lists of results displayed following a search on the basis of a person’s name. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing, even where the publication of the original page is lawful.
The three key challenges caused by this landmark judgment could be identified. First, the judgment has significant impact on the search engine operators as well as on the social networks. It has caused thousands of requests to remove web links from Google search engine all over the EU. The broad discussions has raised the question whether a private company like Google can ensure the requirement to maintain a fair balance between the interest of the public in having the information and the data subject’s fundamental rights. It is expected that Google will do everything to comply with the judgment and other requirements on data protection, as its activities are based on trust. If people would start to think that their personal data with Google is not in safe hands, it would mark the decline of the Google business. Second, the Google judgment raised questions about collision between the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Third, the judgment calls for strong data protection framework in the EU and influences the EU data protection reform.
The Google case has made one but a significant step to promote awareness about fundamental rights on the internet. It is a step towards strong and effective protection of the right to privacy and personal data in the digital world.
More information about the conference can be found here.
English speaking attornays at law the Gencs Valters Law Firm in Riga.
Practising in fields of litigation law, human rights law and ICT law in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
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