01/07/2013 13:59

Search engines not to remove legitimate information from the internet - no general 'right to be forgotten'

On 25 June 2013, Advocate General Jääskinen of the Court of Justice of the European Union released his opinion on the much debated 'right to be forgotten' in the case of Google Spain v AEPD (which is the Spanish Data Protection Agency).


No general 'right to be forgotten'

In sum, the Advocate General considers that search engine providers are not responsible for personal data appearing on the web pages that they process, and that there is no general 'right to be forgotten' under the EU Data Protection Directive.[1] Therefore, such a 'right to be forgotten' cannot be invoked against search engine providers on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, even when this Directive is interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


Right to rectification, erasure and blocking of data

The Data Protection Directive provides for some specific rights, such as a right to rectification, erasure and blocking of data. These rights concern data whose processing does not comply with the provisions of the Directive (for instance, because of the incomplete or inaccurate nature of the data). According to the Advocate General, this was not the case in the proceedings between Google Spain and the AEPD.


Right to object to processing of personal data on compelling legitimate grounds

The Data Protection Directive also grants any person the right to object at any time, on compelling legitimate grounds relating to his particular situation, to the processing of data relating to him or her (subject to exceptions provided under national law). However, the Advocate General affirms that a subjective preference alone does not amount to a compelling legitimate ground. Consequently, the Data Protection Directive does not entitle a person to restrict or terminate dissemination of personal data simply because he or she considers these data to be harmful or contrary to his or her interests.


Search engines not to remove legitimate information

Requesting a search engine provider to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would, according to the Advocate General, amount to an interference with the freedom of expression of the publisher of the web page (the Advociate General even mentions that this would constitute private censorship).


For the entire text of the Advocate General's opinion, see https://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-131/12#. 


For more information regarding the above, do not hesitate to contact me. If you need advice from an attorney or lawyer on E.U. or Belgian media law, I will be glad to be of help.


Author: Bart Van Besien


Finnian & Columba



Attorney - Lawyer - Brussels - Belgium - European Union (E.U.)

Specialised in media law and intellectual property law (copyright, trademarks, patents, domain names, etc.).

[1] Directive 95/46/EC of 24 October 1995 of the European Parliament and Council on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ L 281, p.31-50).





Bart Van Besien

Finnian & Columba
K. De Deckerstraat 20A
2800 Mechelen, Belgium

+32 486 626 355
+32 15 29 42 57