Case 8: Google and the Right to Be Forgotten (Privacy)

Description

Conduct a strategic analysis using the Executive Summary template. Prepare and submit an executive summary that includes the Statement of Integrity, three-page analysis, and references. The analysis discusses what strategic alternatives are available and needs to provide a recommended strategy.
You are to work alone to analyze and prepare the Executive Summary for the case.  NOTE: Click “Submit Assignment” in the upper right hand corner of your screen to turn in your Executive Summary no later than Sunday, midnight CT.. Name your file with your name and the unit number, i.e. Jones1 or Brown1. Your file should be in either Microsoft word (.doc or .docx) or rich text (.rtf) format.
Submission Format

Name your file with your name, and paper 1 i.e. Jones paper or Brown paper. Your file should be in either Microsoft word (.doc or .docx) or rich text (.rtf) format.

Required Information
The following information will be required for the Executive Summary.  TEXTBOOK CASE ANALYSIS GUIDANCE(CAG) and the TEXTBOOK BUSINESS CASE ANALYSIS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TEMPLATE  Download  TEXTBOOK BUSINESS CASE ANALYSIS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TEMPLATE These files are required for the unit textbook case studies. 
Synopsis of the Case: The content of the synopsis should present relevant background facts about the case under examination.
Relevant Factual Information about the Problem or Decision the Organization Faced: State the precise problem or decision the organization faced.  The section should include information that addressed the business issue under examination. This section should be no longer than a single paragraph. 
Explanation of Relevant Concepts, Theories and Applications Derived from Course Materials:  This section should be the bulk of your paper. Analysis of the business problem or decision in light of the course concepts must be presented, as well as the business lesson another organization could learn from this situation. Besides citation to the text, learners must conduct research in the University library related to the top. Citing the textbook only is not enough to demonstrate you understand and can apply the course objectives. Here is where comparative and contrasting positions should be considered and examples and illustrations provided.
Recommendations: Provide logical recommendations to address the business lesson identified above. The recommendations need not to be specific to the organization examined, but should consider how other organizations, if similarly situated, could lessen the impact of the problem or decision identified. Recall, that the organization under examination has already moved pasted this problem so any recommendations made, at this point, are fruitless. The focus of this section should be on what other companies should be aware of to address similar problems or decisions. Citation to the textbook alone is insufficient for analysis in this section. Learners should conduct research in the University’s library to support their positions. Depth of scholarship is not demonstrated by providing personal opinions alone, but by using examples, analogies, comparison and illustrations from the academic literature. Not only does this synthesize the material to assist the reader’s understanding, it is an effective way to present the academic sources and extend the discussion of your ideas. This section should be a paragraph or two.
Alternative Recommendations: This section is not a continuation of the prior. Provide suggestions for how to avoid the problem or decision the examined organization faced. Analysis here should be may be forward- thinking, predictive or, most likely, preventative in nature but tied to the thesis statement. Again, opinion is insufficient to provide the required academic analysis. Sources, other than the text, must be provided to sustain the statements made. This section should be a paragraph, at most.
Conclusion: End the assignment with a summary of the important points made in the document. No new information may be presented. Writing a conclusion can be done by rewording the opening or reformulation the topic sentences of each paragraph to make a summary for the reader. This section should be a paragraph, at most.1
Name:
Student Name
Assignment:
Textbook Case Analysis Executive Summary – Week
Date Submitted:
Course (include the
section number:
MG495 Business Policy
Statement of Academic Integrity:
I certify that:
1. I prepared this document specifically for this class;
2. I am the author of this document;
3. I am fully disclosing and giving proper credit to any outside assistance received in
its preparation;
4. I cited sources of information (e.g., data, ideas, charts, etc.) and used this material
to support this document.
5. I did not receive any assistance / help / guidance from others.
Student’s Signature
(type your full
name):
2
Writing a Textbook Business Case Analysis Executive Summary
Student Name
Park University
3
Writing a Textbook Business Case Analysis Executive Summary
APA does not permit the use of the word introduction as a level heading (APA, 2009,
Rule 3.03 p. 63) In fact, the opening does not even carry a heading, except for a restatement of
the paper’s title. One is assumed by its placement at the beginning. Your opening should provide
specific and meaningful information relevant to the business issue of the case. Appropriate intext citation must be provided. The executive summary should be analytical in nature
encompassing a forward thinking view.
Synopsis of the Case
The content of the synopsis should present relevant background facts about the case
under examination. The information provided should be supported by APA in-text citation.
Provide only facts related to the business aspects of the case. Discussion of the background
should be minimal (i.e., a paragraph, two at most), but still analytical.
Relevant Factual Information about the Problem or Decision the Organization Faced
State the precise problem or decision the organization faced. The section should include
information that addressed the business issue under examination. This section should be no
longer than a single paragraph.
Explanation of Relevant Concepts, Theories and Applications Derived from Course
Materials
This section should be the bulk of your paper. Analysis of the business problem or decision
in light of the course concepts must be presented, as well as the business lesson another
4
organization could learn from this situation. Besides citation to the text, learners must conduct
research in the University library related to the top. Citing the textbook only is not enough to
demonstrate you understand and can apply the course objectives. Here is where comparative and
contrasting positions should be considered and examples and illustrations provided.
Recommendations
Provide logical recommendations to address the business lesson identified above. The
recommendations need not to be specific to the organization examined, but should consider how
other organizations, if similarly situated, could lessen the impact of the problem or decision
identified. Recall, that the organization under examination has already moved pasted this
problem so any recommendations made, at this point, are fruitless. The focus of this section
should be on what other companies should be aware of to address similar problems or decisions.
Citation to the textbook alone is insufficient for analysis in this section. Learners should conduct
research in the University’s library to support their positions. Depth of scholarship is not
demonstrated by providing personal opinions alone, but by using examples, analogies,
comparison and illustrations from the academic literature. Not only does this synthesize the
material to assist the reader’s understanding, it is an effective way to present the academic
sources and extend the discussion of your ideas. This section should be a paragraph or two.
Alternative Recommendations
This section is not a continuation of the prior. Provide suggestions for how to avoid the
problem or decision the examined organization faced. Analysis here should be may be forwardthinking, predictive or, most likely, preventative in nature but tied to the thesis statement. Again,
5
opinion is insufficient to provide the required academic analysis. Sources, other than the text,
must be provided to sustain the statements made. This section should be a paragraph, at most.
Conclusion
End the assignment with a summary of the important points made in the document. No new
information may be presented. Writing a conclusion can be done by rewording the opening or
reformulation the topic sentences of each paragraph to make a summary for the reader. This
section should be a paragraph, at most.
6
References
TEXTBOOK CASE ANALYSIS GUIDANCE (CAG)
TO BEGIN, PLEASE PRINT THIS FORM FOR REFERENCE
This supplement to the syllabus is provided to assist you; HOWEVER, it is also a
directive on how to adequately accomplish a case analysis. The case format guidelines
MUST be followed.
CRITICAL THINKING AND ANALYSIS – As a business/management major, or other
major for that matter, and soon to be college graduate, one of the most important
skills/abilities you should possess is the ability to engage in critical thinking and analysis
(using the skills and knowledge you have learned throughout your education and
applying them). You will never have everything presented to you when you are a junior
manager/executive, but you are expected to take what you have and use your
knowledge and skills to make decisions and to arrive at valid and accurate conclusions,
which may and should include “thinking outside the box”.
To those who think you may have some problems, here are some suggestions and
guidance to aid you in your case study preparation:
______________________________________________________________________
The information provided below is designed to assist you in case analysis.
Don’t make anything up; just take information from the case and the time frame of
when the case was written. You are required to use problem solving and critical
thinking skills in this analysis. If something isn’t specifically stated, then consider
the likelihood of it being a possibility for this given firm considering the
timeframe that the case is taking place in, and the type of industry that the firm
operates in.
Also, DO NOT go on the Internet and look at where the firm is today. The only
information about the company that I want you to use in your case analysis is what is
contained in the textbook or in any approved outside sources specifically listed.
a. The case analysis will be based on the time frame of the case. For example, if the
case was written in 2006, then students will use information from 2006 or earlier
publications.
b. Students will use for references other sources of information as well as the textbook.
These sources should include business magazines and professional journals. Online
sites such as Wikipedia, Portable MBA, Quick MBA are not acceptable references for
case analysis in this course.
c. Students should use any of the following magazines and publications as references:
Barron’s, Business Week, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review,
Wall Street Journal. However, these aren’t the only outside sources that might be
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applicable, so don’t limit yourself to just these few. Using Google or other Search
Engines can certainly assist you. For assistance in how to locate articles in the above
publications, email and/or call the Park Library, toll free at (800) 270-4347.
d. Make sure that you cite and reference the Case Authors, and NOT the Textbook
authors when giving credit for information obtained from the case.
CASE ANALYSIS TOOLS
Use the tools listed in the textbook for your analysis.
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Case 8 Google and the Right to Be Forgotten1
Cynthia E. Clark Bentley University In 2009, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a self-employed attorney
living in a small town outside Madrid, Spain, casually “googled” himself and was startled by
what came up on his computer screen. Prominently displayed in the search results was a brief
legal notice that had appeared more than a decade earlier in a local newspaper, La Vanguardia,
which listed property seized and being auctioned by a government agency for nonpayments of
debts. Among the properties was a home jointly owned by Costeja and his wife. Costeja
immediately realized that this information could damage his reputation as an attorney. Equally
troubling, the information was no longer factual. He had paid his debt nearly a decade earlier.
Abanlex, Costeja’s small law firm, depended on the Internet to gain much of its new business,
which was often generated by a Google search. Potential clients might choose not to hire him
based on the old auction notice, he reflected. His mind then turned to the possible effects of this
kind of information on other people’s livelihoods. “There are people who cannot get a job
because of content that is irrelevant,” he thought.2 “I support freedom of expression and I do not
defend censorship. [However, I decided] to fight for the right to request the deletion of data that
violates the honor, dignity and reputation of individuals.”3 The next week, Costeja wrote to La
Vanguardia and requested that it remove the article about his debt notice, because it had had
been fully resolved a number of years earlier and reference to it now was, therefore, entirely
irrelevant.4 In doing so, he was making use of his rights under Spain’s strong data protection
policies, which recognized the protection and integrity of personal data as a constitutional right
under Section 18 of the nation’s Data Protection Act.5 In response, the newspaper informed him
that it had recently uploaded to the Internet all its past archives, dating back to 1881, to allow
them to be searched by the public. It also noted that the auction notice had originally been
publicly posted in order to secure as many bidders as possible. The newspaper refused Costeja’s
request, stating that the information was obtained from public records and had thus been
published lawfully.6 To be sure, the real problem for Costeja was not that the notice had
appeared in La Vanguardia’s digital library, but that it had shown up in the results of the most
widely used search engine in the world, Google, where potential clients might use it to judge his
character.7 Following this reasoning, Costeja then wrote to Google Spain, the firm’s Spanish
affiliate, only to be told that the parent company, Google Inc., was the entity responsible for the
development of search results.8 Costeja was taken aback by this development. “The resources
Google has at their disposal aren’t like those of any other citizens,” he reflected.9 Costeja felt he
would be at a disadvantage in a lawsuit against an industry giant like Google. In March 2010,
after his unsuccessful attempts with the newspaper and Google Spain, Costeja turned to Spain’s
Data Protection Agency (SDPA), the government agency responsible for enforcing the Data
Protection Act. “Google in Spain asked me to address myself to its headquarters in the U.S., but I
found it too far and difficult to launch a complaint in the U.S., so I went to the agency in Spain to
ask for their assistance. They said I was right, and the case went to court,” he explained.10 In a
legal filing, Costeja requested, first, that the agency issue an administrative order requiring La
Vanguardia either to remove or alter the pages in question (so that his personal data no longer
appeared) or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to shield the data
from view. Second, he requested that the agency require that Google Spain or Google Inc.
remove or conceal his personal data so that it no longer appeared in the search results and in the
links to La Vanguardia. Costeja stated that his debt had been fully resolved.11 With these steps,
a small-town Spanish lawyer had drawn one of the world’s richest and best-known companies,
Google, into a debate over the right to be forgotten.
Google, Inc.
Google Inc. is a technology company that builds products and provides services to organize
information. Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Mountain View, CA, Google’s mission was
to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It employed
more than 55,000 people and had revenues of $45 billion. The company also had 70 offices in
more than 40 countries. The company’s main product, Google Search, provided information
online in response to a user’s search. Google’s other well-known products provided additional
services. For example, Google Now provided information to users when they needed it, and its
Product Listing Ads offered product image, price, and merchant information. The company also
provided AdWords, an auction-based advertising program and AdSense, which enabled websites
that were part of the Google network to deliver ads. Google Display was a display advertising
network; DoubleClick Ad Exchange was a marketplace for the trading of display ad space; and
YouTube offered video, interactive, and other ad formats.
Search Technology
In its core business, Google conducted searches in three stages: crawling and indexing, applying
algorithms, and fighting spam. Crawlers, programs that browsed the web to create an index of
data, looked at web pages and followed links on those pages. They then moved from link to link
and brought data about those web pages back to Google’s servers. Google would then use this
information to create an index of how exactly to retrieve information for its users. Algorithms
were the computer processes and formulas that took users’ questions and turned them into
answers. At the most basic level, Google’s algorithms looked up the user’s search terms in the
index to find the most appropriate pages. For a typical query, thousands, if not millions, of web
pages might have helpful information. Google’s algorithms relied on more than 200 unique
signals or “clues” that made it possible to guess what an individual was really looking for. These
signals included the terms on websites, the freshness of content, the region, and the page rank of
the web page.12 Lastly, the company fought spam through a combination of computer
algorithms and manual review. Spam sites attempted to game their way to the top of search
results by repeating keywords, buying links that passed Google’s PageRank process, or putting
invisible text on the screen. Google scouted out and removed spam because it could make
legitimate websites harder to find. While much of this process was automated, Google did
maintain teams whose job was to review sites manually.
Policy on Information Removal
Google’s policy on the general removal of information was the following: Upon request, we’ll
remove personal information from search results if we believe it could make you susceptible to
specific harm, such as identity theft or financial fraud. This includes sensitive government ID
numbers like U.S. Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and
images of signatures. We generally don’t process removals of national ID numbers from official
government websites because in those cases we consider the information to be public. We
sometimes refuse requests if we believe someone is attempting to abuse these policies to remove
other information from our results.14 Apart from this general policy, Google Inc. also removed
content or features from its search results for legal reasons. For example, in the United States, the
company would remove content with valid notification from the copyright holder under the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was administered by the U.S. Copyright
Office. The DCMA provided recourse for owners of copyrighted materials who believed that
their rights under copyright law had been infringed upon on the Internet.15 Under the notice and
takedown procedure of the law, a copyright owner could notify the service provider, such as
Google, requesting that a website or portion of a website be removed or blocked. If, upon
receiving proper notification, the service provider promptly did so, it would be exempt from
monetary liability. Google regularly received such requests from copyright holders and those that
represented them, such as the Walt Disney Company and the Recording Industry Association of
America. Google produced and made public a list of the domain portions of URLs that had been
the subject of a request for removal, and noted which ones had been removed. As of July 2015, it
had removed more than 600,000 URLs out of more than 2.4 million requests.16 Likewise,
content on local versions of Google was also removed when required by national laws. For
example, content that glorified the Nazi party was illegal in Germany, and content that insulted
religion was illegal in India.17 The respective governments, via a court order or a routine request
as described above, typically made these requests. Google reviewed these requests to determine
if any content should be removed because it violated a specific country’s law. When Google
removed content from search results for legal reasons, it first displayed a notification that the
content had been removed and then reported the removal to www.chillingeffects.org, a website
established by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several law schools. The Chilling Effects
database collected and analyzed legal complaints and requests for removal of a broad set of
online materials. It was designed to help Internet users know their rights and understand the law.
Researchers could use the data to study the prevalence of legal threats and the source of content
removals. This database also allowed the public to search for specific takedown notifications.18
Google removed content quickly. Its average processing time across all copyright infringement
removal requests submitted via its website was approximately six hours. Different factors
influenced the processing time, including the method of delivery, language, and completeness of
the information submitted.
The Right to Be Forgotten
The right to be forgotten can be understood as peoples’ right to request that information be
removed from the Internet or other repositories because it violated their privacy or was no longer
relevant. This right assumed greater prominence in the digital era, when people began finding it
increasingly difficult to escape information that had accumulated over many years, resulting in
expressions such as “the net never forgets,” “everything is in the cloud,” “reputation
bankruptcy,” and “online reputation.”19 According to Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law at George
Washington University, the intellectual roots of the right to be forgotten could be found in
French law, which recognized le droit à l’oubli—or the “right of oblivion”—a right that allowed
a convicted criminal who had served his time and been rehabilitated to object to the publication
of the facts of his conviction and incarceration.20 Although the right to be forgotten was rooted
in expunging criminal records, the rise of the Internet had given the concept a new, more
complex meaning. Search engines enabled users to access information on just about any topic
with considerable ease. The ease with which information could be shared, stored, and retrieved
through online search raised issues of both privacy and freedom of expression. On the one hand,
when opening a bank account, joining a social networking website or booking a flight online, a
consumer would voluntarily disclose vital personal information such as name, address, and credit
card numbers. Consumers were often unsure of what happened to their data and were concerned
that it might fall into the wrong hands—that is, that their privacy would be violated. On the other
hand, by facilitating the retrieval of information, search engines enhanced individuals’ freedom
to receive and impart information. Any interference with search engine activities could,
therefore, pose a threat to the effective enjoyment of these rights.21 As Van Alsenoy, a
researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Law and Information Communication Technology,
argued, “In a world where search engines are used as the main tool to find relevant content
online, any governmental interference in the provisioning of these services presents a substantial
risk that requires close scrutiny.”22
Europe
Since the 1990s, both the European Union and its member states (such as Spain) had enacted
laws that addressed the right to privacy and, by extension, the right to be forgotten. A
fundamental right of individuals to protect their data was introduced in the EU’s original data
protection law, passed in 1995. Specifically, the European Data Protection Directive 95/46
defined the appropriate scope of national laws relating to personal data and the processing of
those data. According to Article 3(1), Directive 95/46 applied “to the processing of personal data
wholly or partly by automatic means, and to the processing otherwise than by automatic means
of personal data which form part of a filing system or are intended to form part of a filing
system.”23 Article 2(b) of the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46 defined the processing of
personal data as: any operation or set of operations which is performed upon personal data,
whether or not by automatic means, such as collection, recording, organization, storage,
adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or
otherwise making available, alignment or combination, blocking, erasure or destruction.
Individual countries within the European Union also enacted their own laws, which were
sometimes stronger than those of the EU. For example, in Spain, the protection of data was a
constitutional right. The Spanish Constitution recognized the right to personal privacy, secrecy of
communications, and the protection of personal data. These rights were protected through the
Data Protection Act (the “Act”), passed in 1999, which incorporated the 1995 European
Directive on data protection, and was enforced by the Spanish Data Protection Agency (SDPA).
Created in 1993, this agency was relatively inactive until the passing of the Act, which gave it
more powers and a mandate to enforce privacy rules in a wide range of situations.24 The Spanish
agency exercised its powers broadly. For example, in 2013, it fined telecom firm Telefonica SA
£0,000 for twice listing an individual’s phone number in local phone books without the
individual’s prior consent. In 2008, the agency fined a marketing company £00 for using
“recommend this to a friend” icons on websites, saying that senders of recommendation e-mails
had to first request the recipient’s permission. The agency had also successfully required anyone
using security cameras to clearly mark their presence with a recognizable icon. Supporters of this
move have highlighted the importance of transparency in protecting one’s privacy.25 Over time,
however, differences in the way that each EU country interpreted privacy rights led to an uneven
level of protection for personal data, depending on where an individual lived or bought goods
and services. This led the European high court to take a second look, in 2013, at the original
law.26 A European Commission memo at that time noted that the right “is about empowering
individuals, not about erasing past events or restricting freedom of the press.”27 The changes
were intended to give citizens more control over their personal data, making it easier to access
and improve the quality of information they received about what happened to their data once
they decided to share it. An unanswered question, however, was the latitude given to national
courts and regulators across Europe to set the parameters by which these requests could be
made.28
The United States
U.S. courts had taken a very different approach to privacy and to the right to be forgotten. A few
U.S. laws recognized the right to be forgotten; the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, for
example, gave individuals the right to delete certain negative information about their credit—
such as late payments, tax liens, or judgments—seven years from the date of the delinquency.
But, for the most part, fundamental differences in legal philosophy made this right less likely to
become widely supported in the United States. In an article published in the Atlantic in May
2014, Matt Ford suggested that in the U.S. context, one person’s right to be forgotten logically
imposed a responsibility to forget upon someone else, a notion that was alien to American law.
The First Amendment to the Constitution barred the government from interfering with free
speech. Law professor Rosen argued that the First Amendment would make a right to be
forgotten virtually impossible, not only to create but to enforce. For example, the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled in 1989 that penalizing a newspaper for publishing truthful, lawfully obtained
information from the public record was unconstitutional.29
The Lawsuit and Court Decision
The main focus of Costeja’s complaint before the Spanish Data Protection Agency (SDPA) was
his request that La Vanguardia remove the debt notice from its archives. In doing so, he was
claiming his constitutional right to protect the integrity of his personal data. Costeja’s request
had two parts: that (1) La Vanguardia be required either to remove or alter the pages in question
or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data and (2) that
Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove or conceal the personal data relating to him
so that the data no longer appeared in search results. In July 2010, two months after Costeja’s
original request, the SDPA ordered Google Spain and Google Inc. to take “all reasonable steps to
remove the disputed personal data from its index and preclude further access,” upholding that
part of the complaint.30 However, the SDPA rejected Costeja’s complaint as it related to La
Vanguardia, because it considered that the publication by it of the information in question was
legally justified.31 A year later, Google filed an appeal against the decision by the SDPA before
the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid, Spain’s highest national court. In March 2012, this court
referred the case to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s high court, for a preliminary
ruling.32 In their briefs, Google Spain and Google Inc.’s argument hinged on the meaning of
“personal data” and “crawling.” Crawling, as noted above, was the use of software programs to
find multiple websites that responded to requests for information online.33 These programs were
configured to look for information on the Internet, according to a set of criteria that told them
where to go and when.34 Once the relevant web pages had been copied and collected, their
content was analyzed and indexed.35 Google compared its search engine index to an index at the
back of a textbook, in that it included information about words and their locations.36
Specifically, Google argued before the European Court of Justice that because it crawled and
indexed websites “indiscriminately” (that is, without a deliberate intent to process personal data
as such), no processing of personal data within the meaning of Article 2 (b) of the EU Data
Protection Directive 95/46 actually took place. This absence of intent, the company argued,
clearly distinguished Google’s activities as a search engine provider from the processing of
personal data as interpreted by the Court. Google’s other main argument was that the publisher
of the information should be the sole controller of data, not the search engine. After all, its
attorneys argued, Google’s intervention was purely accessory in nature; it was merely making
information published by others more readily accessible. If a publisher, for whatever reason,
decided to remove certain information from its website, this information would (eventually) be
removed from Google’s index and would no longer appear in its search results. As a result,
Google’s counsel argued, the role of a search engine should be thought of as an “intermediary.”
In May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled against Google. The court found the Internet
search provider was responsible for the processing of personal data that appeared on web pages
published by third parties. It further required Google to remove links returned in search results
based on an individual’s name when those results were deemed to be “inadequate, irrelevant or
no longer relevant, or excessive.” At the heart of the court’s logic was the process that Google
used to produce its search results. The official ruling explained the court’s rationale: The Court
points out in this context that processing of personal data carried out by such an operator enables
any Internet user, when he makes a search on the basis of an individual’s name, to obtain,
through the list of results, a structured overview of the information relating to that individual on
the internet. The Court observes, furthermore, that this information potentially concerns a vast
number of aspects of his private life and that, without the search engine, the information could
not have been interconnected or could have been only with great difficulty.37 In essence, the
Court ruled that an activity, “whether or not by automatic means” could be considered to be the
“processing of personal data” within the meaning of Article 2(b), even if no intention to process
such data existed.38 The court’s ruling applied to any search engine operators that had a branch
or a subsidiary in any of the 28 member states of the EU.39 Costeja’s lawyer, Joaquín Muñoz,
was pleased with the ruling. “When you search for something in Google, they don’t scour the
entire Internet for you and then give you a result. They’ve stored links, organized them, and they
show them based on a criteria they’ve decided upon.”40 As for Costeja, he expressed satisfaction
with the result of his four-year legal crusade. Speaking of the court’s decision, he said, “I think
this is the correct move. You have to provide a path for communication between the user and the
search engine. Now that communication can take place.”41
Google’s Application of the Ruling
For its part, Google—although disappointed with the ruling—set about complying with it. Soon
after the court decision, it removed Costeja’s disputed information from its search results. But,
the company also took more general action. The Court’s decision recognized Google as a data
controller, or the operator of the search engine and the party responsible for its data. As such, the
court said, Google was required to police its links and put into place a mechanism to address
individual concerns. Accordingly, shortly after the ruling was announced, Google set up an
online form for users (from the European Union only) to request the right to be forgotten. The
company website stated that each request would be evaluated individually and that Google
would attempt to “balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s interest to know
and the right to distribute information.”42 Once an individual had filled out the form, he or she
received a confirmation. Each request was assessed on a case-by-case basis. Occasionally,
Google would ask for more information from the individual. Once Google had made its decision,
it notified the individual by e-mail, providing a brief explanation if the decision was against
removal. If so, the individual could request that a local data protection authority review Google’s
decision. In evaluating a request, Google looked at whether the results included outdated or
inaccurate information about the individual. It also weighed whether or not the information was
of public interest. For example, Google generally retained the information if it related to
financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or a government official’s public
conduct.43 At the same time, Google invited eight independent experts to form an advisory
council expressly to “advise it on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to
privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.”44 The committee included three
professors (two of law and one of ethics), a newspaper editorial director, a former government
official, and three privacy and freedom of speech experts (including one from the United
Nations). Google’s CEO and chief legal officer served as conveners. The committee’s job was to
provide recommendations to Google on how to best implement the EU court’s ruling. The
majority recommendation of the advisory council, published on February 6, 2015, was that the
right to be forgotten ruling should apply only within the 28 countries in the European Union.45
As a practical matter, this meant that Google was only required to apply removals to European
domains, such as Google.fr or Google.co.uk, but not Google.com, even when accessed in
Europe. Although over 95% of all queries originating in Europe used European domains, users
could still access information that had been removed via the Google.com site. The report also
explained that once the information was removed, it was still available at the source site (e.g., the
newspaper article about Costeja in La Vanguardia). Removal meant merely that its accessibility
to the general public was reduced because searches for that information would not return a link
to the source site. A person could still find the information, because only the link to the
information had been removed, not the information itself. The advisory council also
recommended a set of criteria Google should use in assessing requests by individuals to “delist”
their information (that is, to remove certain links in search results based on queries for that
individual’s name). How should the operator of the search engine best balance the privacy and
data protection rights of the subject with the interest of the general public in having access to the
information? The authors of the report felt that whether the data subject experienced harm from
such accessibility to the information was relevant to this balancing test. Following this reasoning,
they identified four primary criteria for evaluating delisting requests:
First, what was the data subject’s role in public life? Did the individuals have a clear role in
public life (CEOs, politicians, sports stars)? If so, this would weigh against delisting.
Second, what type of information was involved? Information that would normally be considered
private (such as financial information, details of a person’s sex life, or identification numbers)
would weigh toward delisting. Information that would normally be considered to be in the public
interest (such as data relevant to political discourse, citizen engagement, or governance) would
normally weigh against delisting.
Third, what was the source of the information? Here, the report suggested that journalistic
writing or government publications would normally not be delisted.
Finally, the report considered the effect of time, given that as circumstances change, the
relevance of information might fade. Thus, the passage of time might favor delisting.
The advisory council also considered procedures and recommended that Google adopt an easily
accessible and easy-to-understand form for data subjects to use in submitting their requests.
The recommendations of the advisory council were not unanimous. Jimmy Wales, the cofounder
of Wikipedia and one of the eight group members, appended a dissenting comment to the report.
“I completely oppose the legal situation in which a commercial company is forced to become the
judge of our most fundamental rights of expression and privacy, without allowing any
appropriate procedure for appeal by publishers whose work in being suppressed,” Mr. Wales
wrote. “The recommendations to Google contained in this report are deeply flawed due to the
law itself being deeply flawed.”46

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