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ECJ Advocate General: Google shouldn't be forced to block results

3 July, 2013

In a case opposing the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) and Google Spain, Niilo Jaaskinen, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ ), issued on 25 June 2013 his opinion that, on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, search engine service providers are, in principle, not responsible of personal data appearing on web pages they process.

AEPD requested Google Spain to remove results regarding an auction notice for a repossessed home, based on a complaint from a person who had claimed that the search results were infringing on his right to privacy and who had asked for the removal of the results. Google Inc. and Google Spain have refused to comply with the AEPD’s order and have brought two appeals before the Audiencia Nacional (the Spanish National High Court) to ask for the annulment of AEPD’s decision. The Spanish Court referred the case to ECJ.

“Google is not generally to be considered as a 'controller' of the personal data appearing on web pages it processes , who, according to the Directive, would be responsible for compliance with data protection rules. In effect, provision of an information location tool does not imply any control over the content included on third party web pages.

It does not even enable the internet search engine provider to distinguish between personal data in the sense of the Directive, which relates to an identifiable living natural person, and other data. In his opinion, the internet search engine provider cannot in law or in fact fulfil the obligations of the controller provided in the Directive in relation to personal data on source web pages hosted on third party servers,” said Niilo Jaaskinen in his opinion who therefore concluded: “Requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression of the publisher of the web page.”

Google officials said Jaaskinen’s statement supported their “long-held view that requiring search engines to suppress ‘legitimate and legal information’ would amount to censorship.”

Index CEO Kirsty Hughes shared this opinion: "It would threaten freedom of expression and information if search engines were required to censor legitimate information that is already in the public domain. The responsibility for content should lie with the original publisher and not an intermediary”.

Court of Justice of the European Union PRESS RELEASE – Advocate General’s Opinion (25.06.2013)

Opinion of Advocate General Jaaskinen - Case C131/12 - Google Spain SL Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) Mario Costeja González (25.06.2013)

Judging freedom of expression at Europe’s highest court (26.02.2013)

Spain’s Google privacy case “an interference with the freedom of expression” (25.06.2013)



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