European court lets users erase records on Web

The case began in 2009 when Mario Costeja, a lawyer in Spain, objected that entering his name in Google’s search engine led to legal notices that he said were no longer relevant. / Credit: Cabalar:European Pressphoto Agency
The case began in 2009 when Mario Costeja, a lawyer in Spain, objected that entering his name in Google’s search engine led to legal notices that he said were no longer relevant. / Credit: Cabalar:European Pressphoto Agency

By David Streitfeld | The New York Times

Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches, a ruling that rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet.

A search engine like Google should allow online users to be “forgotten” after a certain time by erasing links to web pages unless there are “particular reasons” not to, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said.

The decision underlined the power of search companies to retrieve controversial information while simultaneously placing sharp limits on their ability to do so. It raised the possibility that a Google search could become as cheery — and as one-sided — as a Facebook profile or an About.me page.

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