Germany's high court has sided with Google by upholding lower court rulings that rejected a right-to-be-forgotten privacy claim, and it delayed another case to seek clarification from top Euro judges.
On Monday, the German Federal Court of Justice (Der Bundesgerichtshof, or BGH) said the managing director of a regional charity, named in news articles when the organization had a financial shortfall of almost €1m in 2011, cannot bring a claim under German's data protection law to force Google to hide search results links to articles mentioning him.
The decision says that Article 17 of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, which describes the so-called right to be forgotten, requires a comprehensive consideration not only of the rights of the plaintiff but also of the public and of content providers.
The German high court stayed another right-to-be-forgotten claim so two questions could be addressed by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
This second case involves two individuals who ran a financial services business and were shown in photos accompanying a 2015 article about fraud prevention that made allegations about their business practices. The pair sued Google to prevent online searches that included their names from displaying links to the article and images.
Though a district court in Cologne dismissed their claim in 2017 and a regional court rejected their appeal in 2018, the BGH delayed a final decision to hear from the CJEU about whether the context of a linked article needs to be taken into account when weighing the display of preview images in Google search listings.
The rulings are said to be the first significant right-to-be-forgotten decisions in Germany since GDPR was activated in May 2018.
In May 2014, the CJEU found that European citizens have the right to ask Google to remove search result listings presented in Europe for name-related queries under certain conditions. Removing search results links does not affect the availability of information on source websites, it just makes it more difficult to find using Google.
In the past six years, Google has received about 952,000 delisting requests covering about 3.7 million URLs. The ad biz has complied with about 54 per cent of those requests, about 89 per cent of which come from private individuals.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
In March, Google appealed a €7m fine from Sweden after the Swedish Data Protection Authority found that the Chocolate Factory had failed to remove search listings it had been told to delist in 2017, despite an audit the following year that found non-compliance. ®