Google to Challenge Spanish Authorities in Court on Privacy

By: Qichen Zhang on 17 January 2011
Posted in

After Google introduced Street View in Germany amid concerns over privacy and CEO Eric Schmidt's subsequent, controversial response last year, they face troubles again in Europe over privacy issues. On Wednesday, Spain's Agency of Data Protection (AEPD) will take Google to court over Spanish citizens' complaints that Google publishes damaging personal information in their search results. According to Businessweek, Spanish law requires the Internet company to delete links and data on the website that may harm any individual's right to privacy The government organization has ordered the search engine to take down approximately 100 online articles despite protests from Google that this would challenge freedom of expression.

The company is not the only one concerned with the consequences if the AEPD is successful. Index on Censorship editor Padraig Reidy voiced his opposition to what could appear as a segue toward heavier filtering, saying:

"It encroaches on privacy law, and has massive ramifications on freedom of expression and how the internet works. If Spain is punishing search engines for indexing content how can there be freedom of expression? It looks like a plan by people who don't know how the internet works."

Spain's laws on online publishing, in accordance with general European policy, hold the publisher responsible for content on the Internet. However, Google contests that it merely serves as a middle man for actual publishers, such as news sources, and Internet users in the country, and is therefore not responsible for the content itself.

And despite the earlier issues Germany had with Google Maps Street View, individuals in the country remain sympathetic to the company who faces censorship from the Spanish government. Daniel Flachshaar of the German Pirate Party, an organization that advocates for free speech, noted that the problem lies in the restriction against Google "linking to contents if the contents are still there." Thomas Gramespacher of MIR, an online publication about Internet law, notes that the legal case between the AEPD and Google is complicated. But he goes on to say:

"In principle, Google is not responsible for the contents of its search results..."

For more information, visit ONI's previous coverage on Google and Europe's Regional Overview.