Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest court in the EU, said in a recent judgment that Google would have to delete all search results and other information from their search engines, caches, and algorithms if an organization or a person can prove that the information about them is inaccurate or false.
The European Court of Justice ruled that search engines must exercise the ability to dereference information or delink information if a person making the request can demonstrate beyond any doubt that the material being shown is inaccurate or straight-up false.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as people in Europe have the right to ask Google and other search engines to delete links to outdated or embarrassing information about themselves, even if it is true, under a principle known as the “right to be forgotten.” India, too has a similar provision.
The case stems from a complaint filed in Germany’s highest court by two managers at a group of investment companies who asked Google to remove search results based on their names linked to articles criticizing the group’s investment model.
They said the articles made false claims. Neither the managers nor the company was identified.
The pair also asked Google to remove thumbnail photos of them that came up in image searches without any context. Google refused to comply and replied, saying it didn’t know whether the articles were accurate.
EU has some strict data protection rules, which give people residing in the European Union the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. However, search engine operators have often tried to counter the regulation by pitting data privacy concerns against the public’s right to know.
In this particular instance, though, where the information is false or inaccurate, Google said it welcomed the decision. “Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” the company said in a statement.
To avoid making it too hard to remove false results, the ruling said a court decision isn’t needed and that people can “provide the only evidence that can reasonably be required.”
The court said that search engines wouldn’t have to investigate the facts of each case to determine whether the content is accurate because it could amount to extra work that companies could get around by proactively removing results.
When Google receives a takedown request, it doesn’t remove the links from all web searches, just when a person’s name is typed in. It will still show up when other search terms are used.
In a previous ruling, the court sided with Google that the “right to be forgotten” doesn’t apply outside the 27-nation EU. France’s privacy regulator had wanted the rule applied to all of Google’s search engines, even those outside Europe.
According to the company’s latest transparency report, Google has deleted 5.25 million web links since it started handling “right to be forgotten” requests in 2014, or nearly half of all requests processed.