Google will have to remove search results about users if they can prove it is false, the European Court of Justice has ruled in a "right to be forgotten" case.
The case against Google was brought by two investment managers who requested the search engine operator to dereference them from articles criticizing their company's investment model, claiming the information posted there was inaccurate.
Google refused to comply, counter-arguing that it was unaware whether the information in those articles was accurate or not.
The German Federal Court of Justice, where the claimants first lodged their case, requested the European Court of Justice to adjudicate, as the so-called "right to be forgotten" is a matter of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The EU top court considered the case and ruled in favor of the claimants, further expanding the GDPR's reach.
"The right to freedom of expression and information cannot be taken into account where, at the very least, a part – which is not of minor importance – of the information found in the referenced content proves to be inaccurate," the court said in a press release following the ruling.
It noted that "the right to protection of personal data is not an absolute right" but said Google and other operators must delete search results that link to information about users if they can prove it is "manifestly inaccurate."
However, to avoid an "excessive burden" on users, they must only provide evidence that can be reasonably required for them to find, meaning it does not have to come from a court case.
In turn, the search engine operator is not required to play an active role in finding facts that users cannot substantiate in order to determine if their request is well-founded, the court said.
In case when the operator refuses to comply with the request, users will be able to bring the matter to supervisory or judicial authorities that can carry out checks for them and adopt necessary measures, it said.
The search engine operator would be required to warn internet users of ongoing administrative and judicial proceedings over alleged content inaccuracies if it is informed of any.
"We welcome the decision, and we will now study the text of the CJEU's decision. The links and thumbnails are not available via the web search and image search anymore; the content at issue has been offline for a long time," Google said in a statement to Cybernews.
The company also said it has been working "to strike a sensible balance" between people's rights of access to information and privacy.
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