updated 09:31 am EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
If enacted, move would generate massive extra costs, infrastructure
The Court of Justice of the European Union has rejected Google in a dispute over information collection, ruling that Internet companies can be forced to remove personal content from search engine results, reinforcing the concept of a "right to be forgotten" in Spain (where the complaint was filed) and other European countries. Should the ruling be codified, Google and other similar companies can be mandated to remove "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" content, and if they do not do so, would be guilty of violating the right of privacy as defined in the EU.
Google spokesman Al Verney said of the ruling that the company was "very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the Advocate General's opinion, and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out. We now need to take time to analyze the implications." Google will have to both implement and police takedown requests, to insure both legitimacy as well as the appropriateness of a given request.
Google has allied with Facebook and other Internet companies to fight against the ruling, which led to the European Parliament asking for the "right to erasure" specific details, echoing a 2012 European Commission proposal suggesting the "right to be forgotten."
Law firm Latham & Watkins partner Larry Cohen notes that the ruling is more for the private citizen than public figures. "The ruling will help certain people hide their past, making it difficult to access certain information -- but not when it concerns public figures, or people in whom there is a genuine public interest."
European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said on her Facebook page that "companies can no longer hide behind their servers being based in California or anywhere else in the world" as a result of the ruling. The judicial order will apply to all EU citizens after ratification by 28 EU governments.