BRUSSELS — The highest court in the European Union decided on Tuesday that Google must grant users of its search engine a right to delete links about themselves in some cases, including links to legal records.
The decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is a blow for Google, which has sought to avoid the obligation to remove links when requested by European users of its service.
By ruling that an Internet company like Google must comply with European privacy laws when operating in the European Union — a consumer market of about 550 million people — the court is indicating that such companies must operate in a fundamentally different way than they do in the United States.
Instead of operating as a single around-the-world, around-the-clock forum for other people’s information, Google — and potentially companies like Facebook and probably Twitter — would need in the 28 European Union countries to become more actively involved in refereeing complaints from users about information carried online. The companies would assume the responsibility and cost for removing that information if requested to do so by national data officials on behalf of people raising complaints.
“This sounds like a landmark judgment,’’ said Peter Hustinx, a top European Union official for data protection. “The court is saying that Google isn’t just selling adverts in Europe, but is providing content along with those services. If you are a regular citizen, it gives you a remedy anywhere in Europe for you to ask companies to take down content connected to you.’’
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