Protection of personal data in a digital world


Aurélia Marie

The Court of Justice of the European Union rendered an important decision on May 13, 2014 (Case C-11/12), in a case involving the Google search engine, highlighting the difficulties of reconciling trade and the protection of individuals when it is necessary for their data to circulate.

This decision was rendered on the basis of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which provides that “Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications” (Article 7) and “Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her” (Article 8).

It enshrines the principle of a ‘right to be forgotten’. The context was a complaint filed by a Spanish national before the Spanish Data Protection Agency (SDPA), against Google Inc and Google Spain, to obtain the removal of personal data from his index, and prevent access to it in the future. This Spanish national requested inter alia that his data should no longer appear in the search results of a large-circulation Spanish newspaper, in which his name was related to a real estate auction held following proceedings performed for the recovery of debts dating back to 1998. The SDPA dismissed the complaint, considering that the newspaper had legally published the data.

However, the SDPA asked Google companies to take all measures to remove such data and make it inaccessible in the future in the search engine. Google then appealed to the Spanish court, which itself applied to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.

CJEU; Google; SDPA.