The court ruled in a case between Mario Costeja González, a Spanish national, and Google. He lodged a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) in 2010 because he wanted the search engine to remove links to a 1998 newspaper article that contained an announcement for a real-estate auction organized following attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by him, according to the court.
Because the issue had since been resolved, Costeja González asked the data protection agency to either order the newspaper to remove or alter the pages or order it to block search engines from indexing the pages. He also requested that Google would be ordered to remove or conceal the indexed link from the search results so it would no longer be displayed when someone searched for him on Google, the court said.
While the AEPD rejected the complaint against the newspaper, it did order Google to delete the data from its index. Google subsequently asked Spain's National High Court to annul the decision and that court referred the case to the Court of Justice.
The court ruled that Google and other search engine operators are in certain cases can be obliged to remove links to third party web pages that contain information relating to a person. Search engines also can be ordered to do so if the when the publication in itself is lawful, the court said.
In the case of Costeja González, the court found that the information displayed by Google about him had become inadequate and irrelevant over time. Therefore, Google was ordered to erase the links.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to email@example.com