De-referencing of inaccurate personal information from online search results is provided by judgement of the EU Court of Justice under case C-460/20

By way of Judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) dated 08 December 2022 under case C-460/20, it has been held that the individuals are entitled to request de-referencing of the inaccurate information, related to them and published on the Internet, from the online search results.

The judgement contains interpretation of the right to erasure of personal data (the right to be forgotten), provided in Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR) in connection with the right to respect for private and family life, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to express opinions and to receive and impart information, as provided in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The CJEU holds that the individuals are entitled to request from the operators of search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) not to display links to the inaccurate personal information during online search made with their names as key words, if the individuals provide evidence that the respective information is inaccurate.

According to the CJEU, the individual must provide relevant and sufficient evidence, which leads to the establishment of the obvious inaccuracy of the published personal information. The CJEU holds that the operator of the search engine is not obliged to undertake an independent investigation whether the personal information is true.  Therefore, it is important that the affected persons are active in proving the inaccuracy of the data, related to them.

The operator of the search engine is obliged to remove from the search list the personal information, which is proven by the applicant as obviously inaccurate and which is not of minor importance in view of the whole content, requested for de-referencing. Practically, the right to erasure under the GDPR shall be implemented by “hiding” the websites, containing the inaccurate information - if someone writes the name of the individual, the link to the website, where the inaccurate information is published, will not appear among the search results at all.

The persons are also entitled to request de-referencing from the results list of their photos, displayed in the form of reduced-size images (the so-called thumbnails, where during search by name, only the photos of the persons are displayed, without displaying the whole content of the website, where the photos are published). In this case, the operator of the search engine must access the informative value of the photos regardless of the context of their publication on the website from which they are taken, as well as any text element, which accompanies directly the display of those photos in the search results and which may cast light on the informative value of those photos.

The Judgement is available here.