It has been dubbed the ‘right to be forgotten’.
In a case pitting privacy campaigners against Google, a top EU court says Internet firms can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal data from search engine results.
The European Court of Justice upheld a complaint by a Spanish man that Google searches on his name threw up links to a newspaper article in 1998 about his home being repossessed.
Google says it is disappointed at the landmark ruling from the Luxembourg-based court.
But it has been welcomed in Brussels, where back in 2012 the European Commission proposed a law giving people the ‘right to be forgotten’ on the Internet.
“It is good news because it confirms the position of the European Commission,” said EC spokeswoman Mina Andreeva.
She said the court’s decision shows “that European law can apply to a search engine and that Google is a controller of data, can be regarded as a controller.
“It is above all not good only for the Commission but for citizens who will see their data are better protected,” she added.
Not only does this case highlight the struggle in cyberspace between free speech advocates and supporters of privacy rights.
It also creates both technical challenges and potential extra costs for companies like Google.