FRAMINGHAM 19 JANUARY 2011 -
Spain's Data Protection Agency and Google on Wednesday faced off in court where the search company defended its content linking policies and business model.
The Spanish agency, known as AEPD by its Spanish acronym, and Google sparred in a hearing at the Administrative Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional, the high court of Spain.
Google denied being responsible for any of the content it indexes, according to the news agency Europa Press. Moreover, Google has defended what it considers its right to link to external pages and to not remove information.
"Doing so would be a form of censorship," said Luis Javier Aparicio Falón, a Google attorney.
The hearing was called to address five cases where the "right to forget" has been invoked. The content, found on various Web pages, including references to official government bulletins and media reports, has been categorized by the AEPD as "potentially libelous" and, in certain cases related to abuse, as a danger to some people's safety.
Aparicio Falón argued that search engines are a "nexus to information which, by law, have no responsibility over the content in our country," a statement the government's attorney said is wrong.
The lawsuits should have been filed against the content creators, and not against Google, Aparicio Falón said. "Asking search engines to remove information in an arbitrary fashion is very dangerous because search engines are a fundamental part of the information society and freedom of speech would be under attack."
Peter Barron, Google European Director of External Relations, said in a statement: "We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator. Spanish and European law rightly hold the publisher of 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."
For Google, the solution would be for editors to use existing tools to limit access to certain information via the Internet.
Beyond the five cases, the AEPD has also requested that Google remove 100 links, saying that they are "potentially libelous."
On Dec. 1, Artemi Rallo, the AEPD's general director, in an appearance before Spain's Congress, brought up the growing concern in Spanish society over citizens' data privacy. During his speech, he said that "the major providers of Internet services have already crossed the line several times with regards to respect to privacy," referring to AEPD objections involving Google Buzz, Google Street View, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo.
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