Google Spain v. Gonzalez: did the court forget about freedom of expression?

Stefan Kulk, F. Zuiderveen Borgesius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this note we discuss the controversial judgment in Google Spain v. González of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Our focus is on the judgment’s implications for freedom of expression. First, the facts of the case and the CJEU’s judgment are summarised. We then argue that the CJEU did not give enough attention to the right to freedom of expression. By seeing a search engine operator as a controller regarding the processing of personal data on third party web pages, the CJEU assigns the operator the delicate task of balancing the fundamental rights at stake. However, such an operator may not be the most appropriate party to balance the rights of all involved parties, in particular in cases where such a balance is hard to strike. Furthermore, it is a departure from human rights doctrine that according to the CJEU privacy and data protection rights override, “as a rule”, the public’s right to receive information. In addition, after the judgement it has become unclear whether search engine operators have a legal basis for indexing websites that contain special categories of data. We also discuss steps taken by Google to comply with the judgment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-398
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Risk Regulation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • data protection
  • privacy
  • freedom of expression
  • right to be forgotten
  • intermediary liability
  • search engines


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