The Advocate General, Mr Jääskinen, in the case C-131/12, pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union, between Google Spain SL, Google Inc. and Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González, affirmed that search engine service providers are not responsible, on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, for personal data appearing on web pages they process.

The Advocate General proposed that the Court declares that processing of personal data takes place within the context of a controller’s establishment and, therefore, that national data protection legislation is applicable to a search engine provider when it sets up in a Member State, for the promotion and sale of advertising space on the search engine, an office which orientates its activity towards the inhabitants of that State.

In addition, the Advocate General pointed out that a national data protection authority cannot require an internet search engine service provider to withdraw information from its index except in cases where this service provider has not complied with the exclusion codes or where a request emanating from a website regarding an update of cache memory has not been complied with.

Ultimately, the Advocate General affirmed that the Data Protection Directive does not establish a general ‘right to be forgotten’. Such a right cannot therefore be invoked against search engine service providers on the basis of the Directive, even when it is interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular, with the rights of respect for private and family life (Article 7) and protection of personal data (Article 8), freedom of expression and information (Article 11) and freedom to conduct a business (Article 16).