CJEU opinion supports role of search engine service provider as intermediary

In a case dealing with a number of crucial issues, the advocate general says search engine service providers are intermediaries, rather than data controllers, in respect of personal data they process on third-party web pages.

One of the most controversial new rights in the draft EU data protection regulation is the right to be forgotten online. A man in Spain has tried to pre-empt this by applying current data protection law in relation to lawfully published personal information which he says creates a negative impression of him. His grievance was directed particularly at Google as search engine provider because the article to which he objected came up against Google searches of his name.

Google argued it was not subject to EU data protection law in relation to its search engine operation, that it was acting as intermediary not data controller in relation to third-party web pages, and that it could not be required to monitor and/or erase such data under current law. A number of references were made by the Spanish Court to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in relation to this case, which is widely seen as a test for the workability of the right to be forgotten. In fact, the case is interesting on a number of levels as it covers some highly significant issues…

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