Case summary

Deciding Body
District Court of Amsterdam
Rechtbank Amsterdam
Netherlands
National case details
Date of decision: 24.12.15
Registration ID: C/13/579966
ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2015:9515
Instance: 1st Instance
Case status: Final
Area of law
Data protection

Mass media
Relevant principles applied
Proportionality
In judicial dialogue
Judgement of the CJEU (Grand Chamber), 13 May 2014, Case C-131/12 Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Mario Costeja González

Identification of the case

Fundamental rights involved
  • Respect for private and family life (art. 7 CFREU)
  • Protection of personal data (art. 8 CFREU)
  • Freedom of expression and information (art. 11 CFREU)
National law sources
  • Wet bescherming persoonsbescherming (Wpb)
EU law sources
  • Directive 95/46/EC

Summary of the case

Facts of the case

The appellant is a journalist and is a member of the Dutch Journalist Organization. The appellant contributed to an article in NRC-Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper. A subsequent article was published in NRC-Handelsblad, detailing the termination of the collaboration between the appellant and NRC-Handelsblad, as it was discovered that the appellant had plagiarized a passage in the earlier article from the internet. When entering the appellant’s name as a search term into Google Search, the fifth URL refers to the article about the the termination of the collaboration. The appellant requested Google to remove the URL. This request was denied.

Type of enforcement
  • Civil judicial enforcement
Measures, actions, remedies claimed/applied

The remedy claimed was the removal of the URL by Google. This remedy was not applied by the District Court of Amsterdam.

Reasoning (legal principles applied)

Firstly, the Court establishes that, in accordance with Google Spain, Google must be considered a data processor under Directive 95/46/EC. Furthermore, Google is responsible for the processing of the personal data under the Directive.

Secondly, the Court notes, citing the CJEU’s reasoning in Google Spain, that a person can use their right to privacy guaranteed by art. 7 and 8 of the CFREU, to prevent personal information being available from a search engine results list. Furthermore, this right takes precedence over the economic interests of the data processor. This right must be balanced against the public interest in the personal information being accessible. Thus, the Court must balance between two fundamental rights; the right to privacy in articles 7 and 9 of the CFREU and the right to freedom of information, guaranteed by art. 11 of the CFREU. The Court further notes that this does not concern the accuracy of the newspaper article in question; if that was in question, the appellant could have started a case against NRC-Handelsblad.

Thirdly, the Court notes the important role that search engines, such as Google Search, play in society. Thus, the function of search engines should not be too strictly compromised. The Court finds that there is an overriding public interest in this case for several reasons. Firstly, the Court considers that the appellant chose to plagiarise and bears responsibility for her own actions. Secondly, the article refers to the appellant in her capacity as a journalist, not a private person. Finally, plagiarism is considered a serious offence in journalistic circles. Furthermore, the Court cites the CJEU’s reasoning in Google Spain that information was more likely to be relevant if it relates to the current working life of the data subject. The Court finds that this is especially relevant to the journalistic profession, as newspapers should be able to find out whether their potential contributors have plagiarized in the past.

Role of the Charter and role of the general principles on enforcement

Relation to scope of the Charter

This case involved a balancing between the right to privacy as enshrined in articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, and the right to freedom of information under art. 11 of the Charter.

Relevant principles applied
  • Proportionality
Principle of proportionality

The Court considered whether the infringement of the claimant’s right to privacy and right to data protection was proportionate to the public interest of the information being available. The Court determined that in this case, there was an overriding public interest, which means that it was proportional for Google to not remove the URL from its search function.

Elements of judicial dialogue

Vertical dialogue type
  • Direct dialogue between CJEU/ECtHR and National court (out of preliminary reference procedure)
Cited CJEU
  • CJEU C-131/12, Google Spain
Dialogue techniques

Conform interpretation with EU law as interpreted by the CJEU.

Purposes of using judicial dialogue

To solve a conflict between different trends of national caselaw.

Expected effects of judicial dialogue

Judicial review.

Additional notes on the decision

External links

Case author

Silvester van Kordelaar, University of Groningen

Published by Chiara Patera on 29 January 2020