The measure already allows citizens in EU countries to demand any results about them considered “inadequate, irrelevant or… excessive” to be removed, if the search is carried out in an EU country – even though the web page would still exist, delisting from a search engine makes it harder for people to find.
It came into force in 2014, after Spanish national Mario Costeja sought to remove out-of-date links relating to unsettled debts that had since been settled.
France’s data regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), had been probing the European Court of Justice to clarify whether the ability to de-list links should go beyond google.fr, the French site of Google, extending to other versions across the world.
In its ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recognised that countries outside the EU “have a different approach” and that the balance between the right to privacy and the protection of personal data against freedom of information of internet users “is likely to vary significantly around the world”.
It continued: “The Court adds that the right to the protection of personal data is not an absolute right, but must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality.”
Earlier this year, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar issued his non-binding opinion to the European Court of Justice on the case, proposing that the court should limit the scope of the de-referencing that search engine operators are required to carry out to the EU.
Mr Szpunar said that the principle should be “balanced” against other rights, such as data protection and privacy, as well as the “legitimate public interest”.