A German court has sided with Google and rejected requests to wipe entries from search results. The cases hinged on whether the right to be forgotten outweighed the public’s right to know.
Germany’s highest court agreed on Monday with lower courts and rejected the two plaintiffs’ appeals over privacy concerns.
In the first case, a former managing director of a charity had demanded Google remove links to certain news articles that appeared in searches of his name. The articles from 2011 reported that the charity was in financial trouble and that the manager had called in sick. He later argued in court that information on his personal health issues should not be divulged to the public years later.
The court ruled that whether links to critical articles have to be removed from the search list always depends on a comprehensive consideration of fundamental rights in the individual case.
A second case was referred to the European Court of Justice. It concerned two leaders of a financial services company that sought to have links to negative reports about their investment model removed. The couple had argued that the US-based websites, which came up in the searches for their names, were full of fake news and sought to market other financial services providers.
Links are only be deleted from searches in Europe but would appear as normal in other regions. Any data “forgotten” by Google, which mostly provides links to material published by others, is only removed from its search results, not from the internet.
The cases stem from a 2014 ruling in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which found that EU citizens had the right to request search engines, such as Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing, remove “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” search results linked to their name. The case centered on a Spaniard who found that when his name was Googled, it returned links to an advertisement for a property auction related to an unpaid social welfare debt. He argued the debt had long since been settled.