European Court Orders Google to Remove Links That Annoyed a Lawyer

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The European Court of Justice has ruled that Google can be required to delete links to public records even when the records themselves are allowed to remain active:

The case began in 2009 when Mario Costeja, a lawyer, objected that entering his name in Google’s search engine led to legal notices dating back to 1998 in an online version of a Spanish newspaper that detailed his accumulated debts and the forced sale of his property.

Mr. Costeja said that the debt issues had been resolved many years earlier and were no longer relevant. When the newspaper that had published the information, La Vanguardia, refused to remove the notices, and when Google refused to expunge the links, Mr. Costeja complained to the Spanish Data Protection Agency that his rights to the protection of his personal data were being violated.

The Spanish authority ordered Google to remove the links in July 2010, but it did not impose any order on La Vanguardia.

Generally speaking, I’m in favor of greater privacy rights, and I mostly support the EU’s more aggressive approach to privacy than what we have in America. But this ruling is troubling. Not because Google has to delete some links—I can imagine circumstances where that might be justified—but because they’re being treated differently than the newspaper that published the information in the first place. It’s as if the court recognizes that La Vanguardia enjoys freedom of the press, but not Google. I’m not sure how you justify that, aside from a vague notion that La Vanguardia is a “real” press outlet and Google isn’t. But whatever notions you have of press freedoms, they shouldn’t rely on distinctions between old and new media. If La Vanguardia is allowed to publish it, Google should be allowed to link to it.

We’ll see how this plays out. To me, though, it doesn’t even seem like a close call. These are legal records; they were published legitimately; they’re potentially relevant regardless of whether the debts were cleared up; and they aren’t even that old. I certainly understand Costeja’s annoyance, but that’s not a good reason to abridge press freedoms so broadly.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate