European Union (EU) and European Court of Justice (ECJ) have been stressing real hard to ensure privacy protection to their citizens. While many countries have not been able to persuade companies like Google yet EU and ECJ have been maintaining their strict requirements regarding protection of privacy rights within their jurisdictions.
Similarly allegations of tax avoidance have been labeled against Amazon, Google and Starbucks regarding UK Tax Laws. The European Commission and publishers’ settlement for e-book price fixing is also known to public. The hints are clear that Google, Facebook, Samsung etc may face more scrutiny from EU and US regulators regarding various regulatory issues, including privacy issues.
Unfortunately, countries like United States, India, United Kingdom, etc are working towards curbing civil liberties in cyberspace on the one hand and increasing unconstitutional e-surveillance powers on the other hand. On the other hand, EU has been working in the direction of making consumers’ data and information safe and secure.
The developments of privacy and data protection at the EU are systematic and consistent in nature over a long period of time. Some significant developments in this regard are draft European Parliament Legislative Resolution for General Data Protection Regulation 2009-2014 (PDF), European Parliament’s support for Commission’s efforts to foster EU Citizens’ Rights Memo 14-185 (PDF), MEPs anti surveillance stand against U.S. NSA (PDF), etc. The latest to add to this civil liberties protection list is supporting vote of European Parliament for EU data protection reforms (Word) that have now become irreversible in nature. The new Data Protection Regulation was approved with 621 votes for, 10 against and 22 abstentions.
Now it has been reported that ECJ has held that Google can be required to remove sensitive information from its Internet search results. 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 is the outcome of a litigation initiated by a Spanish man who 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 its search results. However, Google maintains that forcing it to remove such data amounts to censorship. The ECJ does not seem to be convinced by this argument of Google and held that the rights of people whose privacy has been infringed outweighed the general public interest.
“If it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased,” judges said. Thus, people could ask Google to delete sensitive data or go to a relevant authority if Google fails to comply with their request. Adopted in 1995, Europe’s data protection directive is now currently being revised to make the rules stricter.