Dec 9, 2022 - Technology

Google must remove inaccurate search data if asked, EU court rules

In this photo illustration the American multinational technology company and search engine Google logo is seen on an Android mobile device screen with the EU flag in the background.

Photo illustration: Chukrut Budrul/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Google must delete search results about people in Europe if they can prove that the information is clearly incorrect, the EU's highest court said on Thursday.

Driving the news: The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that search engines must "dereference information found in the referenced content where the person requesting dereferencing proves that such information is manifestly inaccurate."

Context: A 2014 EU ruling granted European citizens the right to ask search engines to remove sensitive or outdated information from listings about their past, known as the "right to be forgotten."

Thought bubble, via Axios' Ashley Gold: This court ruling is part of a trend in which governments, both in the U.S. and abroad, are holding platforms increasingly responsible for the content that others post — which companies say could ruin the business models that have made them successful.

Details: The case originated from a complaint filed in Germany's top court by two managers of a group of investment companies, according to the CJEU.

  • They requested Google remove search results based on their names, which provided links to certain articles criticizing that group’s investment model that they said contained inaccurate claims.
  • The managers also requested Google remove thumbnail images of them. But the tech giant declined to do so, "arguing that it was unaware whether the information contained in those articles was accurate or not," per the CJEU.

Of note: In the German case, the CJEU ruled that such proof does not need to "result from a judicial decision made against the publisher of the website."

  • The person seeking removal of online data only needs to provide "evidence that can reasonably be required of him or her to try to find" it, according to the ruling.

What they're saying: "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," a Google spokesperson said in a statement, per Reuters.

  • The spokesperson noted the online information referred to in the case had long been removed.

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