Furore Over EU Ruling that Google Must Delete Certain Personal Data on Demand

A ruling by The European Courts this Tuesday, which upheld that an individual can demand 'irrelevant or outdated' information be deleted from search results, has been described by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales as "astonishing" and "one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen".

Sparking this furore, the case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google's search results was an infringement of his privacy.

The EU court has subsequently made an unprecedented ruling that Google must remove search results at the request of ordinary people, in a test of the legal 'Right To Be Forgotten'.

Mr Wales commented in a BBC Radio 5 live interview: "I suspect this isn't going to stand for very long. If you really dig into it, it doesn't make a lot of sense... you can complain about something and just say it's irrelevant, and Google has to make some kind of a determination about that."

"That's a very hard and difficult thing for Google to do - particularly if it's at risk of being held legally liable if it gets it wrong in some way. Normally we would think whoever is publishing the information, they have the primary responsibility - Google just helps us to find the things that are online."

"I would expect that Google is going to resist these claims quite vigorously. I think they would be foolish not to because if they have to start coping with everybody who whines about a picture they posted last week, it's going to be very difficult for Google."

Google has responded by announcing that the ruling is "disappointing", and is looking into the implications of The European Courts' decision.

Meanwhile, European Commission VP Viviane Reding, who has spearheaded the EU's data privacy efforts, wrote the following on her Facebook page: "The ruling confirms the need to bring today's data protection rules from the 'digital Stone Age'... This is exactly what the data protection reform is about - making sure those who do business in Europe respect European laws and empowering citizens to take the necessary actions to manage their data."

In contrast, Guardian journalist James Ball described the ruling as "either an eerie parallel with China's domestic censorship of search results, or a huge incentive for tech investment to get the hell out of Europe."

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