Germany’s highest court agrees with the lower court and rejects the two plaintiffs’ appeal.
In the first case, a former charity managing director asked Google to remove links to certain news articles that appeared in the search for his name. Articles from 2011 reported that the charity was in financial trouble and that its manager had called in sick. He then argued in court that information about his personal health issues should not be disclosed to the public years later.
The court ruled that whether links to critical articles should be removed from the search list always depended on comprehensive consideration of basic rights in individual cases.
The second case was referred to the European Court. This concerns two leaders of financial service companies who are trying to have links to negative reports about their investment models being removed. The couple believes that the US-based website, which appeared in their name search, is full of fake news and is trying to market other financial service providers.
‘Right to be forgotten’
This is the first ruling by the German high court since EU general data protection regulations come into force in 2018. This gives EU citizens broad rights to ask companies to immediately delete personal data.
The case originated from the 2014 ruling in the European Court (ECJ), which found that EU citizens had the right to request search engines, such as Google Alphabet and Microsoft Bing, to delete “inaccurate, inadequate, inadequate, irrelevant or irrelevant search results excessive “linked to their names. The case centered on a Spaniard who discovered that when his name was Googled, he returned a link to an advertisement for the auction of property related to unpaid social welfare debt. He believes that the debt has long been settled.
The issue of how search engines must balance privacy rights with freedom of information has caused several court cases in Germany and at the European level.
In April last year, the European Court ruled that Google did not have to apply EU law which required the removal of search engine results on request outside of EU borders.
In 2014 Google executives Eric Schmidt and David Drummond took part in a meeting to discuss the balance between privacy and freedom of information flow
Any data that is “forgotten” by Google, which mostly provides links to material published by others, is only removed from its search results, not from the internet.
Google began removing content from search following a ruling by the European Court in 2014which upholds the “right to be forgotten” by removing individual links to outdated or inaccurate personal information. About 90 percent of all web searches in Europe are through Google.
Online forms available on Google sites in EU countries give users the opportunity to submit requests for information to be deleted. The form asks for identification and which links should be removed and why. The search giant may agree to remove search links that are only related to a person’s health, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Each request is handled individually by a staff member who must make an assessment decision.
The link will only be removed from searches in Europe but will appear as usual in other regions.
This is a right that is exploited by many EU citizens, as is clear from the Google Transparency Report, which states that since 2014 nearly one million people have demanded that nearly four million links be removed from search listings. And in about half the cases, the search engine giant has complied with the request, where in the majority of cases, the link to Facebook was removed.
About one in six URLs was removed from search after complaints from Germany.
One case of successful removal requests is the case of a teacher. An article displaying his belief in minor violations more than a decade earlier no longer appears in search results that are associated with his name. The other was a rape victim who requested the removal of a link to a newspaper article about the case.
However, it was the opposite result, for a priest who demanded the removal of Google’s search results from two news items that included sexual harassment charges against him. Google believes that the information is relevant to the public interest in the pastor’s life, adding that the church’s own investigation into the allegations has not been completed.
“Forgetting is characteristic and not a mistake,” Viktor Mayer-Schönfelder said in an interview with DW. Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute is seen as a pioneer of “the right to be forgotten.” In his book Remove: Forgotten Virtues in the Digital Age, reissued in 2010, Mayer-Schönberger has begun to point out the dangers that go hand in hand with unlimited data recording and traceability of data through search engines.
However, a mere mouse click today will be enough to bring back to the events of contemporary relevance that in analogous societies have long been forgotten or become untraceable. People change, just as their preferences and opinions change. The internet, however, documents everything and everything as if it were eternal and above all: without any context.
As a result, the data highway becomes deadlocked. The more information is gathered, nothing is lost. The world of medicine has a special term for this phenomenon: “hypomathatic syndrome.” It describes people who cannot forget, who are permanently bombarded by their memories, who must return to and experience the past without being able to direct their memories. This is a very rare complaint in humans. But thanks to the Internet and search engines, the whole community began to suffer from this inability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant. To identify what is not important, out of date, obsolete.
Internet expert Mayer-Schönberg clearly welcomes all attention about the importance of forgetting in the digital age triggered by cases in the Federal Court. Even so, he believes that legal solutions can only be temporary solutions. He instead called for “practice of forgetting,” based on technical processes and tools and, above all, digital expiration dates.