The Google ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling and its wider implications for real-estate businesses

By Belinda Doshi

In a landmark judgment on 13 May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that an individual has the ‘right to be forgotten’ under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. The court held that, in certain circumstances, search engines such as Google will be obliged to remove from their search results links to webpages that contain ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive’ information about individuals.

The case has attracted worldwide attention because of its ramifications for Google and other search engines. However, attracting relatively little attention are the wider implications for business generally. In summary, this ruling is not just relevant for search engines. Its implications for our understanding of the territorial scope of the directive and our understanding of individuals’ rights under the directive will be relevant to all types of business — including real-estate businesses.

The dispute dates back to 1998 when a Spanish newspaper published details of the financial difficulties of a Mr Mario Costejo Gonzalez. In particular, the newspaper mentioned Mr Gonzalez’s name in relation to a real-estate auction for the recovery of debts. The article was placed on the newspaper’s website and indexed by Google’s search engine. In 2009, Mr Gonzalez asked the newspaper to remove the article. After the newspaper refused to do so, Mr Gonzalez asked Google to remove the publication from its search engine results, which Google also refused to do…

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