On Thursday, Europe’s top court said Alphabet unit Google must remove data from online search results if users can prove it is inaccurate.
Advocates of free speech and supporters of privacy rights have clashed in recent years over people’s “right to be forgotten” online, meaning that they should be able to remove their digital traces from the internet.
The case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concerned two executives from a group of investment companies who had asked Google to remove search results linking their names to certain articles criticising the group’s investment model.
They also wanted Google to delete thumbnail photos of them from search results. The search engine giant denied the requests, saying it did not know whether the information in the articles was true or not.
Following the case, a German court sought advice from the CJEU on the balance between the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression and information.
“The operator of a search engine must de-reference information found in the referenced content where the person requesting de-referencing proves that such information is manifestly inaccurate,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said.
Google notified that the links and thumbnails in question were no longer available through web as well as image search and that the content had been offline for a long time.
“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” a spokesperson said.