Google is battling data protection authorities in Spain over whether or not search engines can be ordered to block search results that link to legal content on Spanish newspaper and government sites.
Google has a post on its Europe Blog today discussing the matter. William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, EMEA at Google writes:
In the case before the CJEU today – one that is representative of around 180 similar Spanish cases – Google declined to comply with an order from the Spanish Data Protection Authority. We were asked to remove links from our search results that point to a legal notice published in a newspaper. The notice, announcing houses being auctioned off as part of a legal proceeding, is required under Spanish law and includes factually correct information that is still publicly available on the newspaper’s website.
There are clear societal reasons why this kind of information should be publicly available. People shouldn’t be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice. The substantive question before the Court today is whether search engines should be obliged to remove links to valid legal material that still exists online.
We believe the answer to that question is “no”. Search engines point to information that is published online – and in this case to information that had to be made public, by law. In our view, only the original publisher can take the the decision to remove such content. Once removed from the source webpage, content will disappear from a search engine’s index.
This has pretty much been the way Google has always operated. Here’s an explanation from Matt Cutts about why Google won’t remove pages about you.
Google is also facing antitrust issues in Europe, but according to a recent report, the European Commission will not reach a decision on that until at least August.