(CN) – The Spanish government has ordered Google to delete information about 90 of its citizens from online indexes, upholding a complaint from Spain’s Data Protection Agency.
Google filed suit last January to challenge the order, but was rebuffed by a Spanish judge.
The ruling is the latest development in growing efforts across Europe to protect “the right to be forgotten” on the Internet or, as it is known in Spain, “the right to oblivion.”
Last December, Data Protection Agency Head Artemi Rallo reported a 75 percent increase in privacy complaints since 2009. Complaints mostly target Internet companies, including MySpace, Facebook and Google.
Though similar suits in the United States have met little success, European laws give much greater weight to a person’s right to privacy and dignity.
The European Union is expected to release its own regulations this fall. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said last month: “I cannot accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace.”
Google has argued repeatedly that search engines should not be held responsible for the content on the Internet to which they provide links. If privacy actions exist, Google contends, plaintiffs should target those who post content, not index services.
Google has faced lawsuits across the globe over many of its services, including its search engine and the Street View feature of Google Maps. The company is currently fighting privacy suits in about 30 different countries.
Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, wrote a personal blog post about the issue this year.
“More and more, privacy is being used to justify censorship,” he wrote. “In a sense, privacy depends on keeping some things private, in other words, hidden, restricted, or deleted. And in a world where ever more content is coming online, and where ever more content is find-able and share-able, it’s also natural that the privacy counter-movement is gathering strength. Privacy is the new black in censorship fashions.”
“It used to be that people would invoke libel or defamation to justify censorship about things that hurt their reputations. But invoking libel or defamation requires that the speech not be true. Privacy is far more elastic, because privacy claims can be made on speech that is true.”
The Madrid courthouse where the legal battle will play out cannot be seen on Google Street View.