Europe's highest court is to decide whether EU citizens can lawfully demand that Google delete information about them from its search engine.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) received the request for a decision from Spain's highest court, the Audiencia Nacional, Reuters reported on Friday. The move came more than a year after the Audiencia Nacional itself started considering the case, which proved influential in the European Commission's current 'right to be forgotten' reforms.
The case began when several people complained to Spanish data protection authorities that Google Search was bringing up results that depicted them negatively. One example was a plastic surgeon who had once been accused of malpractice, and now wanted references to that episode deleted.
In early 2011, Spain's data protection authorities ordered Google to remove around 100 references of this kind. Google challenged the decision, and the case is now with the ECJ.
According to Reuters, the Spanish court wants the ECJ to tell it whether Google has to remove the data even though the data is not itself illegal, and Google was not responsible for producing the content being linked to. The judges also want to know whether Europe is the proper jurisdiction for such a case, given that Google is based in the US.
Google and the European Commission are already debating this issue, which is a key plank of the Commission's data protection reforms.
The search company has argued that it can only avoid indexing legal content if the site's administrators opt out of having the content added to Google's results.
The Commission maintains that people should be able to have data about themselves deleted. It says that Google has responsibility for the way it presents data because it can "exercise control on the content, conditions and means of processing" of data.