Search Engines after ‘Google Spain’: Internet@Liberty or Privacy@Peril?



Search engines can be portrayed both as champions of freedom and as agents of surveillance. By facilitating the retrieval of online data, they enable a global public to seek, receive and impart information. Where information about individuals is concerned, however, search engine services can also pose a risk to privacy. Due to the increase in personal information available online, search engine providers are frequently confronted with requests to remove certain web pages from their search results. A ‘notice-and-takedown’ procedure, similar to the one employed for copyright purposes, could offer considerable relief for the individuals’ concerned. However, questions have been raised regarding the compatibility of such mechanisms with the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, due process, as well as the principle of proportionality. The objective of this paper is to analyze whether the different interests at stake can be adequately reconciled within the framework of EU Data Protection Directive 95/46, using Google Spain (C-131/12) as a case study.

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