Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) – third most-popular holding among equity hedge funds that we track – just might have to pay rent in European Union courtrooms, as the company’s attorneys have been taking up residence with all of the legal cases that the tech giant has been dealing with in several Eu countries. The latest battle has moved beyond a regional court and has gone into the full EU judicial system. And what is the issue? Drum roll please …
User privacy. I know, surprising, huh?
The question before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is determining the point when information should be private when it comes to the internet. Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) was across the table from the Spain data protection authority giving preliminary arguments involving a case surrounding a private Spanish citizen. An ECJ advocate is due to give an opinion in June, with the judges making a final verdict by the end of the year.
The case involves a person who failed to make social security payments, lost a house in an auction in order to make the payments, and that information was available to view through a Google search. The question is, does that person have the right to force Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) to scrub embarrassing information from its search results? Legal analysts see this case surrounding several issues – the freedom to information, data-protection rights, defining a publisher and who is the final arbiter of the internet.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is arguing that it should not be forced to remove content that is legal and it did not create originally. However, Spanish officials made the argument that when an individual’s privacy is compromised, Google should in good faith remove that information from its results.
What is the genesis of this case, and how might Google’s role be defined?
The case began when a Spanish man conducted a Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) search of his name and found a newspaper story from years earlier that reported about his house being auctioned. He sued in Spanish court, and the court side with the individual, directing Google to remove the result from its search. Google challenged the decision and it went to the ECJ last spring.
Supporters of Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) say that considering Google a “controller” instead of a “host,” making Google remove such information can lead to many requests for deletion of information for any number of reasons – which may not all be legitimate privacy concerns. This case may define the reach of a current EU draft law that is being debated. The law would establish a citizen’s “right to be forgotten,” or to have personal iformation deleted, especially from the internet.
What od you think? While this case can define privacy across the entire EU, do you think this can have some precedent in the U.S. because of Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) being an U.S.-based multinational company? Give us your thoughts about privacy and personal information in the comments section below.
DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentioned.
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