Google is subject to EU privacy law but is not obliged to delete sensitive information from its search index, an adviser to the highest European Union court said, in a case that tests whether people can erase harmful content from the Web.
The advisor’s opinion vindicates the internet search giant’s position that it cannot erase legal content from the Web even if it is harmful to an individual. But the opinion rejected the view that they are not bound by EU privacy laws.
“Requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression,” the court said in a statement communicating advocate general Niilo Jaaskinen’s opinion.
“Search engine service providers are not responsible, on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, for personal data appearing on web pages they process,” the statement said.
A final judgment on the case is expected before the end of the year. European Court of Justice judges are not bound by the advocate general’s opinion, but generally follow them.
The opinion follows a complaint by a Spanish man that an auction notice of his home after it was repossessed infringes his privacy and should be deleted from Google’s search results.
It is just one of 180 similar cases in Spain to have content deleted from Google searches. Those cases are on hold pending the EU court’s decision.