Google doesn't have to delete sensitive personal information from its search engine index, according to a recommendation to the European Court of Justice.
Google's vindication came in a recommendation to the Court of Justice by advocate general Niilo Jääskinen. It was part of a case brought against the search engine firm by a Spanish citizen looking to have potentially libelous website data removed from Google's search index.
In the ruling, Jääskinen said that Google and other search engines are not subject to privacy requirements under existing European data protection law.
"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 court said in communicating Jääskinen's opinion.
He explained that based on present law citizens don't have a right to be removed from search indexes within the Data Protection Directive framework.
"The 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," he added.
Google is understandably pleased.
"This is a good opinion for free expression," said Bill Echikson, head of free expression at Google EMEA. "We're glad to see it supports our long-held view that requiring search engines to suppress ‘legitimate and legal information' would amount to censorship."
The decision is not final, as the European Court of Justice isn't bound by the advocate general's opinion. However, the opinion was given to the judges of the court who have now begun their deliberations in the case.
A final ruling on the case is expected before the end of the year.