Top EU lawyer says Google not responsible for data

By James Riches topicIcon SEO

EU adviser suggests responsibility lies with websites

A leading EU adviser has suggested responsibility for potentially sensitive data appearing in SERPs should lie with individual websites rather than search engines.

Niilo Jaaskinen, an advocate general of the European Court of Justice, believes that while Google is subject to the same EU privacy regulations as other companies, it should not be held to account when content produced by someone else finds its way into search results.

Having considered the issue, Mr Jaaskinen concluded that it was down to individual sites to monitor what they publish, and that Google was not to blame if potentially sensitive information appeared on SERPs.

Essentially, Google is not the primary source of the information and therefore cannot be held to account for it.

The issue has been raised in the EU courts after complaints from Spain that old personal data could still be found and was an infringement of their privacy.

A ruling on this is expected later in the year, with judges predominantly going along with recommendations set out by advocates such as Mr Jaaskinen.

EU could take more lenient stance than UK

If the EU does decide that Google has no obligation to remove data, it will be at odds with a recent UK ruling that gave the search engine 35 days to remove data collected illegally by Street View cars.

In using local Wi-Fi networks to source data, Google inadvertently also took information such as personal emails from people in the areas they visited, prompting complaints about privacy infringement.

Google admitted that it was at fault in this matter, so there is likely to be plenty of interest in their reaction to the impending EU ruling.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, said: "This new development serves to highlight the complexity of this privacy issue, and it will be interesting to see if the EU does indeed go along with Mr Jaaskinen's viewpoint."