Privacy Almighty? The CJEU’s Judgment in Google Spain SL v. AEPD

The Internet has matured into an unprecedented repository of data, retrievable through myriad unique “links,” or Uniform Resource Locators. Yet, this wealth of information only became broadly accessible through the invention and continual development of algorithm-based search engines. Keyword searches empowered search-engine users to find—and sometimes stumble upon—information with great ease. Indeed, search-engine indices arguably have become the most comprehensive catalogues of information the world has ever seen. This wealth of accessible information poses challenges to traditional notions of privacy: aspects of our private and public lives, which previously would have rarely left the vicinities of our immediate social or professional circles, today find their way onto the Internet, where they are indexed for effortless potential retrieval through search engines. Because the marginal cost of indexing results for one more set of keywords (for instance, a person’s name) is negligible compared to the economic reward for the largest search engines, we find matching information when searching for people’s names irrespective of the role they assume in public life. While this public exposure may be immensely useful for some, problems arise when—for a variety of reasons, ranging from the tragic to the banal—people object to the dissemination of their personal information. Should there be new legal protections to accommodate those affected by evolving technological realities, or should we sacrifice privacy at the altar of freedom of expression and access to information? And if new legal protections are the answer, who should be liable to provide relief?