MADRID May 30 Mario Costeja, the 58-year-old
lawyer and calligrapher from northwestern Spain who fought
Google in court to have obsolete personal information removed
from Internet searches, said on Friday he was content with the
company's new steps to protect privacy.
Internet giant Google, which processes more than
90 percent of all Web searches in Europe, said on Thursday that
people can use a new webform to submit requests to have
information they find objectionable removed from Web search
"I want to congratulate Google because they have taken a
decision that humanises a tool that can now be considered
perfect," said Costeja, who comes from Galicia.
Six years ago he launched what became a landmark legal
action against Google after someone told him that was
information on the Internet saying that his home was repossessed
due to a tax debt.
Costeja asked Google to remove the information because the
house had been sold years earlier and he had paid the tax.
"Google in Spain asked me to address myself to its
headquarters in the U.S., but I found it too far and difficult
to launch a complaint in the U.S., so I went to the Agency for
Data Protection in Spain to ask for their assistance. They said
I was right, and the case went to court," Costeja told Reuters
in a telephone interview.
Spain's courts requested an opinion on the case from the
European Union's top court in Luxembourg. This month the EU
court upheld citizens' "right to be forgotten".
Costeja, born in the 1950s under the Francisco Franco
dictatorship, said he had been a fighter for freedom of
expression and against totalitarian regimes his whole life.
"I support freedom of expression and I do not defend
censorship. What I did was to fight for the right to request the
deletion of data that violates the honour, dignity and
reputation of individuals," he said.
The data he asked to be removed is still visible on the Web,
he said, as Google awaits final instructions from Spain's High
Court, which will act on the recommendation from the Court of
Justice of the European Union (ECJ).
Costeja said he disagreed with critics who say the ruling
could lead to censorship and the hiding of negative information.
His case and others have led to a heated debate in Europe
about the balance between privacy and the freedom of information
in Europe, where citizens enjoy some of the world's strictest
data protection laws.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Will Waterman)