EU court rules: Google must delete false search engine listings

[English]Alphabet subsidiary Google must remove links from its search engine if requested to do so by users from Europe who can prove that the linked pages contain false information. That's according to a December 8, 2022 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ ruled in a case brought by two executives of a group of investment companies who had asked Google to remove search results that linked their names to certain articles criticizing the group's investment model. In addition, Google was also asked by the two, to remove thumbnail images of photos of these individuals from search results.


Google rejected the requests of the two plaintiffs on the grounds that it did not know whether the information in the articles was correct or not. The affected parties then filed suit in German courts. A German court then requested a ruling from the ECJ regarding the balance between the "right to be forgotten" and the "right to freedom of expression and information".

In judgment of December 8, 2022, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) points out that the right to protection of personal data is not an absolute right, but must be considered in light of its function in society and must be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality.

The General Data Protection Regulation explicitly provides that the right to erasure is excluded if the processing is necessary for the exercise of the right, in particular the right to information. The data subject's rights to privacy and to protection of personal data generally take precedence over the legitimate interests of Internet users who may be interested in accessing the information in question.

However, this balancing may depend on the circumstances of the individual case. In particular, this would depend on the nature of this information and its sensitivity to the private life of the person concerned, as well as the interest of the public in this information. "The operator of a search engine must remove information found in the referenced content if the person requesting the deletion proves that that information is manifestly inaccurate," the Court of Justice of the European Union said in its ruling. The ECJ details the judges' decision in case e C-460/20 in this press release.

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