Quite predictably, the first waves of the Google Spain tsunami did not take long to come ashore in our country. Between November and December 2014, the Italian Data Protection Authority issued nine decisions based on applications of as many citizens following the refusal by Google to de-index certain web pages containing personal information (all cases were about online news articles relating to legal proceedings, the typical context when it comes to disputes concerning the “right to be forgotten”).
Some time ago, we addressed this very subject in an article illustrating what was at the time, and was still until a few months ago, the “Italian approach” to the protection of the right to be forgotten: in summary, making the content providers, rather than the search engines, answerable.
Then, in May 2014, the ECJ established the principle that under Community law, subject to certain conditions—e.g. the presence of personal information that is untrue, irrelevant or no longer relevant—the operator of a search engine can be forced to de-index certain web pages to protect the privacy of the individual concerned.
The Italian DPA is now following suit. True, in seven of the above-mentioned nine cases, the DPA rejected the applicant’s request to order Google to de-index, finding that there was a prevailing public interest in the continued access to the relevant information, on the grounds that the events in question were recent and the proceedings were still pending. However, in the two remaining cases the Authority granted the request: in thefirst one, on the grounds that the documents published on a website included a lot of exceeding information, also referring to individuals not involved in the relevant proceedings; in the second one, on the grounds that the news published was placed in a context likely to affect the privacy of the person concerned, as it included information relating to his sexual habits. The Authority therefore ordered Google to de-index the relevant URLs.
This is precisely the kind of decision made possible by the ECJ’s judgment, and further similar decisions can be expected in the future.