The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that aims to determine whether Google's search engine can be ordered to block search results that link to legal content on Spanish newspapers and government websites.
Google will do battle with Spain's data protection authority essentially over freedom of information, the right to protect data, what it means to be a publisher and who ultimately polices the web.
The case is based on a complaint made by a Spanish man who made a Google search using his name and uncovered an announcement in a newspaper from several years earlier saying a property he owned was up for auction because of non-payment of social security.
Previosuly, a Spanich top top courts upheld his complaint and ruled Google should delete the information from its results. Google challenged decision.
Spain referred the case to the EU's highest court to clarify how the EU draft law should be applied, particularly in relation to Google. The outcome of the hearing could be relevant not only in Spain but in all EU countries.
Today, Spanish officials will argue that Google should delete information from its index where an individual's privacy is breached. On the other hand, Google's lawyers argue the search engine company should not have to erase lawful content which it did not create from its search index.
"Over the years, we have consistently stood up for the principle that where legal online content is concerned, only the publisher of that content can make the decision, or be ordered, to remove content from the web," William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, EMEA, Google wrote in a blog post.
"Google declined to comply with an order from the Spanish Data Protection Authority. We were asked to remove links from our search results that point to a legal notice published in a newspaper. The notice, announcing houses being auctioned off as part of a legal proceeding, is required under Spanish law and includes factually correct information that is still publicly available on the newspaper?s website," Echikson added.
Google claims that this kind of information should be publicly available. "People shouldn't be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice," Echikson said.
However, Google admitted that there are also times when information is published online that is subsequently found by a court to be incorrect, defamatory or otherwise illegal.
"Such content can be removed from the source website and from search engines. But search engines should not be subject to censorship of legitimate content for the sake of privacy - or for any other reason," Echikson added.
Tuesday's hearing in Luxembourg opens arguments but it will probaly take months or even a year before a ruling is handed down.