Google Data Protection Case

by Tsai-fang Chen

In this ruling, the Court finds that Google needs to "remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful."

I do not dispute the importance of the fundamental right to privacy. This ruling, however, seems odd to me, especially when the information is published lawfully on the internet by the third party.

The Court does consider the interests of the internet users, but apparently this means little when it comes to the fundamental right charactor of the right to personal data enjoyed by the "data subject". Perhaps it is counterintuitive to argue that knowing personal data about someone else's is also a foundamental right. But Isn't it due to the fact that the definition of personal data is way too broad?

The anology would be writing a book about a person. In the book, there contains a lot of personal information. Some are bad and the "subject" does not like about it, but could not prevent it because of the right of expression. Can the "subject" prevent the library from loaning this book to the users of the library? Doesn't the reader's right be considered more seriously? Shouldn't the writer has some right, too?

What bothers me is that if the information is legally published on the internet, the noraml decision regarding whether the perosnal data should be protected has determined right there. Which is to say, if the data is published legally, then it means that the personal data does not need to be protected. How, then, can the publication of the search link be illegal?

Furthermore, the court argues that whether the information accessible through the search engine has to be removed will depend on the purposes of the data collection ("inadequate, irrelevant or excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing, that they are not kept up to date, or that they are kept for longer than is necessary unless they are required to be kept for historical, statistical or scientific purposes." para 92) Whose perspective does this requirement regulate? Does this even apply to the purpose a search engine has?

I would argue that there is simply not enough incentives for the search engine to keep fighting. The road leads to an internet that will be self-censored by the search engines. Self censorship is rarely, if ever, a good term.