Google Spain SL v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Judgment (May 13, 2014).

Mario Costeja Gonzálezdiscovered that the Google search results for his own name included two 1998 newspaper announcements about real estate auctions resulting from attachment proceedings against him. González complained to a Spanish agency, which held that the paper did not have an obligation to remove the article but that European Union data protection laws required Google and its Spanish subsidiary to remove the offending links. Google appealed the agency’s decision was to the National High Court of Spain, which referred several questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The court determined that search engines, by finding, indexing, storing, and making available information on websites, engage in the “processing of personal data” and are “controllers” of that data within the meaning of Directive 95/46 of the European Parliament. A search engine’s European subsidiary—even if set up to promote and sell advertising space—is also a data processor under Directive 95/46. The court held that two provisions of the directive encompass a “right to be forgotten” requiring search engine operators to remove web pages published by third parties from the search results for a person’s name upon that person’s request even if the information was lawfully published on the indexed webpage.