Europe's top court: people have right to be forgotten on Internet

BRUSSELS Tue May 13, 2014 4:11am EDT

BRUSSELS May 13 (Reuters) - People can ask Google to delete sensitive information from its Internet search results, Europe's top court said on Tuesday.

The case underlines the battle between advocates of free expression and supporters of privacy rights, who say people should have the "right to be forgotten" meaning that they should be able to remove their digital traces from the Internet.

The ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) came after a Spanish man complained to the Spanish data protection agency that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google's search results infringed his privacy.

The case is one of 180 similar cases in Spain whose complainants want Google to delete their personal information from the Web. The company says forcing it to remove such data amounts to censorship.

"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.

"An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties," they said. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)