Google backed by EU court adviser in online data case

GOOGLE won a rare regulatory victory in Europe yesterday when a key adviser to the European Court of Justice said the tech giant would not have to remove personal information from its search results.

Niilo Jaaskinen said that it is not Google’s responsibility to filter the content on other websites that it displays in its search results, and that “requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression”.

His statements come as a major boost to Google ahead of the European Court of Justice’s verdict on the matter later this year. The court’s case revolves around whether search engines are publishers in their own right, and thus responsible for the content they display in their results.

If Google is found to be responsible, it – as well as other search providers like Microsoft – could be subject to a raft of lawsuits demanding it remove data from its search results. Jaaskinen did, however, say that Google and other firms were subject to EU privacy laws, even when they handle data outside of Europe.

Meanwhile, a group of companies yesterday urged the European Commission to force Google to make further concessions on how it presents search results.

Google has been accused of abusing its dominance in search to push other services such as Maps and price comparison, and has offered to slightly alter its search results in order to avoid a hefty fine. However, hundreds of publishers yesterday called for the concessions to be rejected.

“Google is being disingenuous. Its proposed remedies, if accepted, would only entrench its existing monopoly, fill its already brimming coffers, and deprive consumers,” said Thomas Vinje of business group FairSearch Europe.