05:23 - Source: CNN
Will privacy ruling change the Internet?

Story highlights

The EU Court of Justice ruling says Google must edit or remove search results

In certain situations, people may request the search engine to remove unwanted results

The ruling says Google should act as a "controller" and is responsible for data it links to

CNN —  

People have the “right to be forgotten” and search engines like Google must remove certain unwanted links, Europe’s top court decided in a surprise ruling Tuesday.

The case, which spotlighted the clash between privacy and freedom of information advocates, centered on a Spanish man’s efforts to remove historic links to his debt problems.

In its decision, the European Court of Justice found operators of search engines such as Google were the “controller” of information. They were therefore responsible for removing unwanted links if requested.

“An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties,” the judges said in a statement about the ruling.

A Google spokesman, in an email to CNN, said the ruling was “disappointing,” and that the company needed time to “analyze the implications.” Google had previously argued it was only hosting the data and said it was up to the individual websites to remove the data.

The decision came as a surprise to the industry and legal experts, as it ran contrary to the court’s Advocate General opinion, whose guidance is usually followed.