The EU’s top court has ruled that the search engine must remove data from search results if users can prove it is false © AFP / Leon Nael

Google must remove personal data from its search results if users are able to prove it is incorrect, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Thursday.

The case before the court related to two business executives who asked the search giant to remove results linking their names to articles criticizing the investment model of their companies. They also requested the removal of thumbnail photos from search results.

“The operator of a search engine must de-reference information found in the referenced content where the person requesting de-referencing proves that such information is manifestly inaccurate,” the court said.

Previously, Google had refused to remove the information, arguing that it did not know if it was accurate.

The court said proof does not need to come from a judicial decision and users only need to provide evidence that they can reasonably be required to produce.

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The issue has created a clash between free speech advocates and privacy rights groups, who are debating where the balance should lie between the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of information online.

The court had already enshrined the “right to be forgotten” online in 2014, ruling that people could ask search engines to remove irrelevant or inaccurate information from appearing in searches of their names.

“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” a Google spokesperson said on Thursday.

Further EU privacy rules were implemented in 2018 stating that the right to be forgotten can be excluded where the processing of personal information is needed for the exercise of the right to information.

In 2020, Google was fined €600,000 ($630,810) by Belgium’s data protection authority for not complying with the right to be forgotten rule after it failed to remove links from search results which the agency said were “obsolete” and damaging to a high-profile person. (RT)