The EU Court of Justice on Tuesday said search engines should remove results on European versions of its websites and weren’t required to scrub links globally.
Five years earlier the same tribunal forced the U.S. tech giant to remove European links to websites that contain out of date or false information that could unfairly harm a person’s reputation. The ruling is binding and can’t be appealed.
By an adjudication of 10 March 2016, the President of the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL) imposed a penalty of €100000 on Google because of that company’s refusal, when granting a de-referencing request, to apply it to all its search engine’s domain name extensions.
Google had confined itself to removing the links in question from only the results displayed following searches conducted from the domain names corresponding to the versions of its search engine in the European Member States.
Google challenged the French privacy authority’s (CNIL) order to extend the scope to all of its platforms across the world.
However, the court didn’t give Google a blanket right to shrug off European requests for global deletions. European authorities could still potentially order a link to be removed on all versions of a search engine after balancing privacy rights versus the right to freedom of information, the ruling said.
Google is now effectively required to block European users’ access to outlawed links. It must now “effectively prevent or, at the very least, seriously discourage an Internet user” seeking information that should be hidden to protect a person’s privacy, the court said.
In a separate ruling, the EU judges were unclear in their decision over deleting links to two stories involving a personal relationship with a public office holder, and an article mentioning the name of a Church of Scientology public relations manager. Internet users’ right to know may override a right to privacy in some circumstances, it said. The balance between these rights must be made in each individual case.
That judgment puts the onus on Google to consider “the nature and the seriousness of the offense in question” as well as “the time elapsed, the part played by that person in public life and his or her past conduct, the public’s interest at the time of the request” and the consequences of showing a link to the information.
The search engine should agree to remove links pointing to information on legal proceedings against someone and potentially to a conviction if it is judged no longer relevant to a person’s life, the judges said. Google should also consider how it orders search results to reflect the current legal position, they added.
Google is separately challenging billions of euros in antitrust fines at the same EU courts in Luxembourg.