Ever wish Google would somehow forget to bring up the link to
that embarrassing matter about you on the Internet? Maybe it's
a cringeworthy photo. Perhaps it's that little matter you had
before court years ago. Maybe it's those unpleasant things a
rival said about you.
Well, in a world-first landmark legal decision, the European
Court of Justice recently ruled European citizens could request
Google remove their name from certain search results. It came after
a Spanish lawyer claimed search results linking his name to a 1998
newspaper notice of a mortgage foreclosure was a breach of his
The newspaper wasn't ordered to remove the article, but the
court said links could be removed if they were found to be
"inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant". It
didn't matter if the information was accurate, the link had to
To comply with the court order, Google put a form on its
European website to make it easier for people to request the search
engine delete links. Within 24 hours Google received 12,000
requests to delete links. Within weeks it reached 41,000.
While it shows there is a demand from people who want certain
items to be "forgotten" by Google, it won't change
things for some time, and not at all in Australia. The court order
only applies in Europe where Google provides 90 per cent of
The data itself isn't removed, just the links to the
complainant's name. The links won't be deleted outside
Europe. Individuals aren't being removed from the Internet, and
it is up to Google to decide which links are to be deleted.
The process will take a long time as Google does all the link
deletions manually, examining each link to see if it is relevant to
The European court decision is not the end of freedom on the
Internet, as some have claimed. But it does raise questions whether
in the future a case could be mounted in Australia for a person to
demand Google "forget" search links to their embarrassing
or unsavoury past. At what point are the links still relevant?
Should photos or events in your teens still pop up in searches when
you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s?
How far should this go? Should a politician be able to wipe
links to promises they made before elections? Should a celebrity be
able to wipe links to their drug conviction? Should a businessman
be able to censor links to his earlier shady deal? It's an
interesting legal question. Many people want the right to protect
their personal data and manage their reputations online.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Businesses that rely on email or SMS for marketing purposes need to be aware of, and comply with, the Spam Act 2003.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).