The ECJ is right, the result is wrong

von Thomas Stadler

Guest Contribution By Rigo Wenning (Gastbeitrag von Rigo Wenning) Legal Counsel, W3C

The pending EU privacy regulation has to address search engines

Introduction & Summary

A few days ago the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided on Case C-131/12. This decision has some rather surprising characteristics. This counts for the procedure as well as for the content. The first welcoming remarks hailing better privacy protection have faded into a disillusioned critique about the expected collateral damages of the decision with respect to freedom of speech and the added bureaucratic effort. A more down to earth view would suggest that the decision is actually a reminder that search and publicity reserve a lot of challenges, especially concerning the weighing of human rights against each other. It is also a reminder that data protection authorities are often bureaucrats with a regrettable lack of technical understanding. But this also addresses the technical community. I don’t think we can let the courts alone figure it out. In the following, I will try to show that the court was forced to decide the way it decided. This in turn transforms the case into a mandate for the privacy regulation to take the challenge into account. The challenge is to overcome the habit in the legal system to target the central entities in the distributed system that is the web and replace this lazy practice by something that plays well with the system. And there, the IT industry has to get active. Data protection is for the IT industry like environmental protection for the car industry. It makes their technology socially viable and it needs investment, e.g. standardizing the control interfaces for search crawlers.

The case

But let us first look at the underlying case. A local journal in Cataluña, La Vanguardia has a PDF archive of its printed pages ...

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