EU court ruling on Google links could encourage paywalls

Research and data mining also will be made more painful by the ruling, says the CCIA

An EU court ruling Tuesday that Google must delete links to private data could encourage online publishers to put more information behind paywalls, according to a legal expert.

"This will have commercial consequences, by making newspaper and other media archive paywalls more economically attractive," said Simon McGarr, lead solicitor at McGarr Solicitors in Ireland. "If a researcher can't be sure that a Google index will return all the relevant returns on an individual, the value of reliable private archives is bound to increase. It makes economic sense as researchers looking for reliable information are frequently those who are most willing to pay."

The European Court of Justice ruled against the advice of its advocate general, saying that even linking to lawfully available information could breach privacy laws.

Google was ordered to remove links to a Spanish newspaper article about a mortgage foreclosure against Costeja González, because it infringed his right to privacy. The newspaper was not ordered to remove the information, but González successfully argued that the links displayed by Google to the information about him had become inadequate and irrelevant over time.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association also expressed concerns about the potential impact of the ruling for research and data mining.

"If I'm a historian and I want to find information that may at the time have seemed mundane but has now become relevant, that is going to become a very laborious process," said CCIA Vice President James Waterworth. "Whether publishers or information sources keep their information behind paywalls is not strictly relevant, because the whole research process is going to become more painful."

This ruling opens the door to large-scale private censorship in Europe, Waterworth warned, saying "it will likely affect all companies providing links on the Internet."

"Up to now companies left decisions to courts to decide on a case-by-case basis. But this ruling seems to place more responsibility on the private actor with no accompanying process. For the time being, there is a greater risk for them if they don't take links down," he added.

However, McGarr said that discussions and tussles on a case-by-case basis still seem likely to dominate this legislative area for years to come.

"This is just one ruling and I think we will have to wait and look at other rulings jurisdiction by jurisdiction before we can derive a general legal framework on this issue," he said.

A new EU law on data protection could also have a major impact. The proposed Data Protection Regulation includes a "right to be forgotten."

"Today's ruling seems to pre-empt the law-making process," said Waterworth. But it is likely to be several years before the data protection law comes into force.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentinternetGooglelegalsearch enginesindustry verticalsCivil lawsuits

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?