The Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) ruled that the operator of a search engine must delete search results if a person requesting deleting proves that information about them is “manifestly inaccurate”.
The case concerns a right to erasure request made by two managers of an investment company. They requested Google to de-reference results of a search made on the basis of their names which they asserted produced inaccurate claims. Google denied the request referring to the professional context in which the content of the search result was set and arguing that it was not aware whether the information contained in the content of the search was accurate or not. The German Federal Court of Justice requested CJEU for its interpretation of the GDPR, which governs the right to erasure.
In its press release, the CJEU firstly noted that the right to protection of personal data is not an absolute right and the right to erasure could be excluded where processing is necessary, in particular, for the exercise of the right of information. In this regard, one must strike a balance between the data subject’s rights to protection of personal data and protection of private life and the legitimate interest of internet users who may be interested in accessing the information in question.
The CJEU then highlighted that if, at the very least, a part of the information, which is not of minor importance, contained in the relevant content proves to be inaccurate, the right to freedom of expression and information cannot be considered. In this regard, the CJEU stated that:
– the person requesting de-referencing due to inaccurate content must prove the manifest inaccuracy of the information or a part of that information which is not of minor importance. Yet, this should not amount to an excessive burden on the person which could undermine the practical effect of the right to erasure. Therefore, the person is only expected to provide evidence that can be reasonably be required of him or her.
– the search engine operator, upon a request for de-referencing, must take into account all the rights and interests involved and all the circumstances of the case when assessing whether content may continue to be included in the search results.
Having considered the above, the CJEU concluded that where a person who has made a request for de-referencing provides relevant and sufficient evidence capable of substantiating their request and of establishing the manifest inaccuracy of the information contained in the content of the search result, the search engine operator is obliged to accede to that request.
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