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CJEU Case C-136/17/ Judgment

GC, AF, BH, ED v Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL)

Deciding Body type:
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding Body:
Grand Chamber
Decision date:
24/09/2019

Key facts

  1. This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ 1995 L 281, p. 31).
  2. The request has been made in proceedings between GC, AF, BH and ED and the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (French Data Protection Authority, France) (‘the CNIL’) concerning four decisions of the CNIL refusing to serve formal notice on Google Inc., now Google LLC, to de-reference various links appearing in the lists of results displayed following searches of their names and leading to web pages published by third parties.

Judgement

On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:

  1. The provisions of Article 8(1) and (5) of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data must be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition or restrictions relating to the processing of special categories of personal data, mentioned in those provisions, apply also, subject to the exceptions provided for by the directive, to the operator of a search engine in the context of his responsibilities, powers and capabilities as the controller of the processing carried out in connection with the activity of the search engine, on the occasion of a verification performed by that operator, under the supervision of the competent national authorities, following a request by the data subject.
  2. The provisions of Article 8(1) and (5) of Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that the operator of a search engine is in principle required by those provisions, subject to the exceptions provided for by the directive, to accede to requests for de-referencing in relation to links to web pages containing personal data falling within the special categories referred to by those provisions.

Article 8(2)(e) of Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that, pursuant to that article, such an operator may refuse to accede to a request for de-referencing if he establishes that the links at issue lead to content comprising personal data falling within the special categories referred to in Article 8(1) but whose processing is covered by the exception in Article 8(2)(e) of the directive, provided that the processing satisfies all the other conditions of lawfulness laid down by the directive, and unless the data subject has the right under Article 14(a) of the directive to object to that processing on compelling legitimate grounds relating to his particular situation.

The provisions of Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that, where the operator of a search engine has received a request for de-referencing relating to a link to a web page on which personal data falling within the special categories referred to in Article 8(1) or (5) of Directive 95/46 are published, the operator must, on the basis of all the relevant factors of the particular case and taking into account the seriousness of the interference with the data subject’s fundamental rights to privacy and protection of personal data laid down in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, ascertain, having regard to the reasons of substantial public interest referred to in Article 8(4) of the directive and in compliance with the conditions laid down in that provision, whether the inclusion of that link in the list of results displayed following a search on the basis of the data subject’s name is strictly necessary for protecting the freedom of information of internet users potentially interested in accessing that web page by means of such a search, protected by Article 11 of the Charter.

  1. The provisions of Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that
  • first, information relating to legal proceedings brought against an individual and, as the case may be, information relating to an ensuing conviction are data relating to ‘offences’ and ‘criminal convictions’ within the meaning of Article 8(5) of Directive 95/46, and
  • second, the operator of a search engine is required to accede to a request for de-referencing relating to links to web pages displaying such information, where the information relates to an earlier stage of the legal proceedings in question and, having regard to the progress of the proceedings, no longer corresponds to the current situation, in so far as it is established in the verification of the reasons of substantial public interest referred to in Article 8(4) of Directive 95/46 that, in the light of all the circumstances of the case, the data subject’s fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union override the rights of potentially interested internet users protected by Article 11 of the Charter.