The top court in Europe has just made a strange ruling that will affect the 15 countries of the European Union (EU), and others as well. The court declared out of the blue that Google must remove all references in its search engine if a person requests it. The decision came for all the right reasons. But it is entirely the wrong ruling, infringing on several basic rights while trying to protect the right to privacy.
In effect, the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, took a T-shirt slogan and made an entirely new law from it. The slogan is, “Everyone has the right to be forgotten”. Neither the EU itself nor any of its parliaments or governments had considered this idea in depth. Yet, based on a lawsuit by a Spanish man, the court made a sweeping ruling. It will affect tens of millions who benefit from two other important maxims: freedom of speech and the right to publish.
The facts of the case are simple. Spanish citizen Mario Costeja Gonzalez got into financial trouble in the 1990s. He owed money to the government and he was forced to auction his home. The records of his problems are public in Spain, and like many governments, Spain has put most of its public records online. Google thus knew about Mr Costeja’s problems, and was happy to provide the link to the government’s records to anyone who asked.
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