Google fights Spanish law over mentions on Internet

In a Madrid court, the technology giant Google is fighting a Spanish order to remove some data from search queries. The case centers on a principle of Spanish law known as “the right to be forgotten,” and it’s Google’s latest clash with European privacy laws.

Let’s say someone accuses somone of a crime. The local newspaper picks up the accusation, but then the accused defends him or herself, and is proven innocent. Years later, that newspaper report may still exist somewhere on the Internet. Do the people involved have a right to have it omitted?

That’s the question a Madrid court is debating, in a case between the tech giant Google and Spain’s data protection agency. Spanish authorities filed 90 court orders against Google, on behalf of Spanish citizens who want links to libelous information about them dropped from Google searches. Here in Spain, their desire is enshrined in law, and called “the right to be forgotten.”

“The general argument is what we call derecho al olvido, the kind of right to be forgotten, and it’s based on the right of every single individual and citizen to claim for his or her data to be used in a proper manner,” said Paloma Llaneza, a data protection lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs. “Just to explain it in a very simple way, when you are Googling someone and you are finding some information, what we ask is to delete, or to make not available that information through Google.”

Google did not respond to requests for an interview. But the company has issued previous statements saying it’s not its job to censor the Internet. Google says it’s your local newspaper’s responsibility to eliminate any false reports — not Google’s. The tech company refused the Spanish orders, and it’s all being argued now in court.

Llaneza says it’s an issue of respecting Spanish law, if Google wants to do business here.

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