Google accused of breaching Spain's privacy law

London : Google will challenge the Spanish authority which has asked the internet search engine giant to remove links of the country’s newspapers and official gazettes, accusing it of breaching Spain’s data privacy law.

Spain’s data protection authority has asked Google to remove links to articles in newspapers, including El Pais, and official gazettes, British newspaper the Guardian reported.

The technology giant has been ordered to remove almost 100 online articles from its search listings, which Google warns would have a “profound, chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

Google says it is an intermediary and cannot be held responsible for content on the internet. The company will challenge the orders in a Madrid court Wednesday,

An injunction against search engines is the only way to block access to sensitive material published by these sites, the Spanish authority argues, as newspapers in the country can legally refuse to comply with more informal requests.

However, Google says it acts only as an intermediary, and therefore it cannot be held responsible for all content on the internet.

Peter Barron, Google’s director of external relations for Europe, told the Guardian: “We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator. Spanish and European law rightly hold the publisher of the material responsible for its content.

“Requiring intermediaries like search engines to censor material published by others would have a profound, chilling effect on free expression without protecting people’s privacy.”

Cases covering five disputed articles will reach the Madrid magistrates court. Google will be ordered to remove the articles from its search results if its court challenge is unsuccessful. However, the articles would still be available on the newspaper websites.

The demands follow a burgeoning public debate in Spain about “the right to be forgotten” – or the right for people to delete their internet “data trails”. Complaints from the public about their representation online have jumped 75 percent year on year, the country’s privacy regulator said in June last year.

The ruling would have “massive ramifications” for freedom of expression. “What’s worrying is why they should go to Google, rather than the people who are putting up this content – some of which is legally bound,” Padraig Reidy, news editor at Index on Censorship, was quoted as saying.

Spain’s Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos – the national data protection agency – declined to comment.

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