European Court Requires Google To Delete Personal Info: Reputation Management Just Got Easier

May 13, 2014 • 8:57 am | comments (30) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Legal Issues in Search

Google Forgotten

A major ruling just knocked Google over the head, where Europe's top court, the The Court of Justice of the European Union, ruled that a person has the right to be "forgotten" and thus Google has to remove personal information from their search results when the person makes such a request.

"If, following a search made on the basis of a person's name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results," the judges said.

This obviously not only applies to Google, but Bing, Yahoo, Baidu and others that operate in the European Union.

This is known as a bill named the "right to be forgotten."

Google spokesman Al Verney said Tuesday's ruling was "disappointing ... for search engines and online publishers in general." The company, he said, will "now need to take time to analyze the implications." He added, "We are very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the Advocate General's opinion and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out."

This will make it so much easier for those with personal reputation management issues to get their past history erased from the internet. I am not sure if this would apply to company brands and issues but personal issues, yes.

You bet Google will fight this as best as they can but I am not sure what they can do at this point to overturn this ruling. I am not sure also how Google will handle this differently in the EU versus the US.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for hiding under a rock

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Yo Mamma

05/13/2014 02:52 pm

I filled my complaint to Google to remove some info of mine at and quote the EU article. Their email back states: Hi, Thanks for reaching out to us! We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each day; your message is in our queue, and we'll get to it as quickly as our workload permits. Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that we will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond with questions or requests for clarification. For more information on Google's Terms of Service, please visit Regards, The Google Team So nice to hear Google is so busy. Also nice to see that not only can Google be selective about what they show, but we the public have a say too.


05/13/2014 03:01 pm

You do realise that ISN'T a court order. The EU ruling just says you can apply to GET a court order to have Google remove it. Unless you personally get a court order to have specific information removed, this has no relevance. This order does not give you ANY personal power to get anything removed from Google, it just gives the courts permission to do so. I very much doubt that they will even bother to reply to you. Also its very likely that there will be an appeal so I wouldn't get your hopes up yet either way.

Durant Imboden

05/13/2014 03:10 pm

First, it's important to recognize that this decision isn't just about Google. The specific case involved Google, but the decision sets a precedent that could affect other companies and Web sites. Second, it will be interesting to see what "under certain conditions" means in practice. Third, it will be even more interesting to see how Google, Bing, Yandex, etc. handle such censorship requests. For example, could Google remove results about John Doe's DUI arrest in 1989 from its EU results, leave the links intact in its non-EU results, and block the non-EU versions ot the relevant pages from EU searchers? (If the EU searchers didn't like being limited to sanitized versions of Google's SERPs, they could express their unhappiness to the officials who passed the "right to be forgotten" bill.)

privacy is for idiots

05/13/2014 03:28 pm

Google has a very poor record of success in overturning matters of privacy in Europe. I would not hold your breath hoping for any success for google here.

Yo Mamma

05/13/2014 04:02 pm

Yeah it isn't just about Google but it's JUST about Google. The ruling was against Google because Google is a royal pain and Google deserves what its going to get as public backlash and that just fine with me. Google, like Bing choose what info to show in search results. It should be very easy to request and have removed any "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" results, for whatever reason. The mere fact that this is impossible now to do, is a problem unto itself. Some info can be damaging to businesses and individuals if search engines show one-sided or bias material and businesses and individuals have the right to restrict that - as this action has proven AGAINST Google AGAINST Google, not yahoo, not bing or any other, just be clear sport

Yo Mamma

05/13/2014 04:03 pm

I would love to take Google to court :-) and love even more to win

Steve H.

05/13/2014 04:45 pm

"express their unhappiness..." bill" - eheheh - Sure they will, by Millions! Maybe, when Google stops avoiding taxes in EUA and EU, they will fight for them too. Hey, Don't forget bin landen, if european,... eheheh...Google must Protect Us! Privacy is the fundamental barrier that stands in the way of complete State control and domination.You cannot have freedom without privacy and vice versa. That's why your your vote is...public to all politicians and Google? "Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Benjamin Franklin.


05/13/2014 05:18 pm

Just as Google holds us accountable for the content we publish on our websites, so shall we hold Google accountable for what appears on its websites. Change your ways Google or expect more rulings against you.


05/13/2014 05:32 pm

You ( and Google ) didn't care about censorship arguments when the discussion was Google punishing websites. Why should we care about censorship arguments now that the tables are turned? As long as Google is engaged in censorship I think it is totally fair to make it bilateral.

Durant Imboden

05/13/2014 06:11 pm

You might want to look up the term "false equivalence."


05/13/2014 07:08 pm

Nice esoteric way to dodge the question.


05/13/2014 07:13 pm

Privacy is a constitutional right and why should search engines enjoy an exception? Another thing - the court of Justice of the European Union cannot make law directly. It can only force its member countries to create / change and remove law. In this case it'll be interesting to see how individual countries are going to apply this ruling into their law systems and if they go further than the ruling.

Yo Mamma

05/13/2014 08:20 pm

You're correct. Google is a private company that censors whatever it likes, its not the US government. Look at Google like a big roadside billboard; If it was showing you in a poor light, with bias info, you have every right to complain. And I am the first to complain and will complain more and look forward to a day in court telling Google to make my search terms accurate and unbiased and a true representation of myself (online)

Yo Mamma

05/13/2014 08:21 pm

You are really confused I can tell, so maybe this will help clarify.... "The Court points out in this context that processing of personal data carried out by such an operator enables any internet user, when he makes a search on the basis of an individual's name, to obtain, through the list of results, a structured overview of the information relating to that individual on the internet. The Court observes, furthermore, that this information potentially concerns a vast number of aspects of his private life and that, without the search engine, the information could not have been interconnected or could have been only with great difficulty. Internet users may thereby establish a more or less detailed profile of the person searched against. Furthermore, the effect of the interference with the person's rights is heightened on account of the important role played by the internet and search engines in modern society, which render the information contained in such lists of results ubiquitous. In the light of its potential seriousness, such interference cannot, according to the Court, be justified by merely the economic interest which the operator of the engine has in the data processing."


05/13/2014 11:23 pm

Privacy is actually *not* a Constitutional right. There are a lot of misconceptions about this, but if I can walk down to the clerk's office and pick up a record for the cost of a copy, why shouldn't I be able to obtain that same record online? It's openly public information. And information that is public should be easily accessible. Additionally, if there is something truly "private," yet it managed to make it's way onto some website somewhere and be crawled, indexed, and ranked by Google, probably means that the person did not always consider that information to be "private". Only two can keep a secret. And that's only if one of them is dead. Bottom line, don't share things with people.


05/13/2014 11:35 pm

I don't know how I would feel if Google didn't have any valuable search results for "yo mamma". This is all BS, really. What happens when someone's name is common or is the same as someone else who likes their results being publicly displayed? I've been dealing with people requesting to have their information removed for years, and once people think this is something that is a "right" the flood gates will open further. People will *literally* complain about anything. And, I'm sorry, but if your name just happens to be Chanel, it doesn't mean I'm removing Chanel No. 5 from my website just because you don't like it. This ruling is far too vague to really tell what will happen. And I don't foresee anything like this passing in the US.

Steve H.

05/14/2014 12:22 am

"Privacy is actually *not* a Constitutional right." Liberty is viewed also as a fundamental right to privacy. The Bill of Rights addresses the right to privacy, the 1st Amendment, the 3rd Amendment, the 5th Amendment, the 9th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, and also Supreme Court decisions in this matter boils down to: If you disrespect privacy (fundamental right) you must show a very compelling interest to do so. Polls show most American support this broader vision of liberty.


05/14/2014 12:35 am

Wrong. We're talking here about a European decision. US law and European law differ greatly. The right to privacy is a highly developed area of law in Europe. For example in Germany the right of privacy is in article 2 (and again in article 10) of the German constitution.

Steve H.

05/14/2014 01:43 am

The 2nd article is Personal freedoms: right to life, physical integrity, to think as they pleased, as long it does not offend against the constitution. Still, you are right :) Germany sees choice of privacy and personal Freedom as two sides of the same coin; they learnt wisely from history “no free realms in which the individual belongs to himself” Hitler.


05/14/2014 03:42 am

The German law system is an abstract law system. It's not case based as American common law. Germans write slim law books which are intended to cover every single case one can imagine. Unlike common law where the law is often very specific, detailed and case based. So what you just did (simply reading the code) won't help you understand German or European law. And yes, it is article 2. To be more specific, the basic right of privacy is covered by article 2 paragraph 1 in combination with article 1 paragraph 1 of the German constitution. To make it more dramatic - besides article 2 and 10 there is also article 13 covering privacy. Considering the fact that ONLY article 1-19 of the German constitution is THE basic law (unchangeable for ever) it's quite expressive that over 10% of the basic law is purely about privacy. So again, privacy is a constitutional right, rooted in the basic law.


05/14/2014 05:01 am

I hail The Court of Justice of the European Union's ruling. Individuals should have right to be deleted from the search engines. This is necessary to prevent damages done to the reputation of the individual in the long run. Google is obviously not happy with this ruling. I want this to apply to US Google! This comment was left in - the content syndication and social networking website for Internet marketers where this post was shared. Sunday - contributor

F1 Steve

05/14/2014 09:50 am

wow Google might actually have to employ some real people to deal with takedown requests, they will not like to employ people unless they are selling ads! Employing humans for organics doesn't scale! I suppose they will make organics more obsolete to pump up revenue to cover the manpower they will need! Get your CV ready Durant, your virtual boot licking days could be about to pay off!!

Sundeep Reddy

05/14/2014 11:25 am

Makes sense.

Yo Mamma

05/14/2014 11:39 am

Good news that Bing is being proactive. The exact complaint I made to Google to remove old/irrelevant/biased results from the search engine, I made to Bing and today I have a Microsoft rep working on removing my results - Awesome Bing! No news from Google yet

Yo Mamma

05/14/2014 05:04 pm

Update on Bing almost sounds like Google saying "In order to remove the content in question from Bing, you'll need to contact the site owner or webmaster to have this information updated or removed." which appears to be a boilerplate answer. We needs some new laws loool in AMerica

Mariwan Ahmed Saeed

05/14/2014 09:57 pm

I have tried to make google to remove fals information and pictures about me by criminals in order to blackmail me

Mariwan Ahmed Saeed

05/14/2014 09:58 pm

there is no way to contact google in order to remove such

Yo Mamma

05/15/2014 12:34 pm

You can submit a legal demand here, but what I am seeing from Yahoo/Bing, they're likely to say that the info is the responsibility and control of the author and not them. Which is totally bogus because search engines DO selectively show/hide info. Search engines definitely CONTROL what the public see, so they, the search engines can remove search results and should. Which means if ur in the USA, you will need to start the ball rolling and have a judge rule on this in favor of "the right to be forgotten" Their concern now is only for intellectual property protection, and the protection of children.

Dorene Kirkingburg

05/24/2014 02:50 am

I think the difference is when you walk down to the courthouse to get a record, say an arrest record you, would also be getting the rest of the story as it processed... say some or all charges dropped..or a not guilty verdict. Obviously this would affect the mugshot websites should such a thoughtful law ever be promoted stateside. The mugshot sites do not practice any level of responsible reporting. Most of us wouldn't even read a post that had a disclaimer regarding the validity of facts on every page. Some of these sites are doing nothing more than pandering to one of our lessor human traits...its so much more interesting to find out what someone did wrong...nothing less than e-gossiping

Dorene Kirkingburg

05/24/2014 02:52 am

good for can't really have true personal Freedom without privacy !

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