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Google and Spain battle over privacy rights

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Paul Sakuma/AP

(Read caption) The Google logo outside Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

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Google has had problems when it comes to the right to privacy in Europe for years. In the latest suit, Google is locked in a legal battle with Spain over “the right to be forgotten.”

On Feb. 26, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) heard arguments in Google's latest case. Spain's Data Protection Agency has ruled that Google breached individuals’ right to be forgotten. As a result, the search engine giant was ordered to take down links or information that can be deemed as harmful to an individual. Google, stating that such an action would set a precedent, has taken the trial to the CJEU.

“There are clear societal reasons why this kind of information should be publicly available. People shouldn't be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice,” writes William Echikson, Google’s head of Free Expression for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, on an official Google blog. “The substantive question before the Court today is whether search engines should be obliged to remove links to valid legal material that still exists online.”

It all began when a Spanish man performed a vanity search, Googling his own name to see what popped up. To the man’s surprise, he found a link to an article from several years ago. The article detailed that a property he owned was up for auction since he had not paid his social security contributions. Now, this is just one of roughly 180 cases that Google has going on in Spain.

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