Google and the right to be forgotten – The French Council of State referred a request for a preliminary ruling to the EU Court of Justice

Conseil d’État, Assemblée, 24/02/2017, 391000, Publié au recueil Lebon

In the present case, the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) decided to refer a request for a preliminary ruling to the EU Court of Justice seeking interpretation of the Directive 95/46/EC.

Several individuals noticed that, after typing their names in the search engine developed by Google Inc, the list of results displayed links to on-line press articles containing personal data, notably information concerning judicial proceedings brought against them. Following the Google’s refusal to de-index the links in question, the individuals seised the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties. Their claims were dismissed and the individuals lodged claims before the Council of State, which found that the case raised serious difficulties concerning the interpretation of Directive 95/46/EC.

Firstly, it noted that, in accordance with the case-law of the EU Court of Justice (case C-131/12), Google should be regarded as responsible for the personal data processing and, therefore, it should grant de-indexation claims.

However, the Council of State expressed doubts regarding the interdiction, under Article 8(5) of Directive 95/46/EC, to process data relative to offences and criminal convictions and its applicability to operators of search engine, such as Google.

In fact, the Council of State found that the EU law did not clearly define the responsibility of the operators of Internet search engine and, notably, the possibility to dismiss a ‘de-indexation’ claim in case where the links in questions lead to content falling within the scope of the exceptions previewed in Article 8(2)(a) or Article 8(2)(e) of Directive 95/46/EC or in case where the data in question was carried out solely for journalistic purposes in conformity with Article 9 of the aforementioned Directive.

Moreover, the Council of State expressed its doubts concerning the extent of the operator’s obligations in situations where the links in question lead to data which was modified and, therefore, no longer reflects the actual situation of the person concerned.

For those reasons, the Council of State referred four preliminary questions to the EU Court of Justice.

The full text is available on EuroCases

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