In a development with wide-reaching implications for Google, Yahoo and other web search firms, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Tuesday that Internet search engines must comply with the requests of users to delete links to third- party web pages that contain personal data about such users. The court’s pronouncement was hailed by consumer groups as a victory for privacy rights advocates and for proponents of the “right to be forgotten”—a legal concept, evolved from 19th century French and German law, which proclaims the right to remove personal information from public purview that is deemed to be old or irrelevant. Tuesday’s decision responds to a request for guidance on EU privacy laws submitted to the ECJ by a Spanish court. That court, in turn, handled a case in 2009 that was brought by an individual complainant against Google’s refusal to expunge links that detail personal debt issues that had long since been resolved. In its ruling, the ECJ concluded that the activity of a web search engine in finding, indexing and storing third-party information “must be classified as the ‘processing of personal data’. . . when that information contains personal data.” Moreover, the ECJ held that the search engine “must be regarded as the ‘controller’” of such processing for the purposes of European Parliament Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals. As such, the court declared that search engines are “obliged to remove from the list of results following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person.” The ECJ judgment does not directly compel Google and other search engines to remove links to personal information but enables EU national authorities to force compliance in response to individual complaints.