This may change the Internet forever. From now on, ordinary people’s personal outdated data collected by search engines are protected by EU law and they must be erased upon request, the European Union Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.
And for that they will need to thank a Spaniard, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who went to the EU’s highest court when Google didn’t want to erase some newspaper articles from 16 years ago about a sale of property to recover money he owed. Mr Costeja claimed the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ and went to the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. Google refused to delete the links, arguing that it doesn’t control data but offers information already available and edited by others.
The sentence has raised an intense debate about the boundaries of personal information. For EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, it has been “clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans.” Also, internet users associations in Spain have praised the ruling as a step forward making the world’s most powerful companies respect the EU law.
Online providers have expressed their concern about the bill, saying that Luxembourg’s court is killing the messenger and increasing censorship. Other experts have commented that the ruling will affect anyone who publishes material online about individuals. For Google -which called the ruling “disappointing”- this outcome has certainly been a shock since they had won at earlier stages of this legal battle. Will their huge legal department have room to fight back?