Key facts of the case:
This is an application for protection to the Constitutional Court, claiming a violation of the right of honour and personal privacy (Article 18 (1) of the Spanish Constitution) and the right to data protection (Article 18 (4) of the Spanish Constitution) lodged by D.F.C. and M.F.C. against the Judgment of the Supreme Court of 15 October 2015 (Civil Chamber). In particular, the judgment refers to information published by EL PAIS newspaper in 1985 and which, as with all the newspaper’s news , can be found on the internet thanks to the digitalization of the archive. The piece in question spoke of two men detained for drug trafficking and detailed the circumstances of their detention, their entry into prison and their personal information. More than 20 years later, in 2009, when these two men had already served their judgments for contraband and had their criminal records expunged, they found that entering their given names or surnames into Google or Yahoo, the link to the digital archive which contained the news piece appeared among the first results of the search.
Those affected demanded in the courts that the newspaper eliminate from their digital archive their given names and surnames and adopt measures so that the webpage of the article would not appear on internet search engines such as Google, nor in the internal search engine of the newspaper. The Court of First Instance of Barcelona and the Provincial Court of Barcelona (Audiencia Provincial de Barcelona) agreed to their requests, but the Supreme Court partially upheld the appeal presented by the newspaper in 2015, and rejected the fact that EL PAIS would have to alter the archive to eliminate the information of the given names and surnames of the affected and restrict the search function in their search engine.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The key legal question raised by the Court is the the right to be forgotten. Specifically, the Spanish Constitutional Court has ruled for the first time on the right to be digitally forgotten and it has done so to extend this right to newspaper archives. The rights of the individual protected in accordance with Articles 7 and 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, may enter into conflict with the right of internet users to access available information on the network, and with the right of the media to provide information. In this sense, the Constitutional Court finally rejects that the media has to eliminate their old information of personal data of citizens who were implicated in past events that may harm them now, but it does force the media to eliminate from their internal search engines the possibility of finding that information from the given name and surname of those affected.
Outcome of the case:
The application for protection to the Spanish Constitutional Court lodged by D.F.C. and M.F.C. was partially estimated by the Constitutional Court. On the one hand, the Constitutional Court found the right of honour and personal privacy (Article 18 (1) of the Spanish Constitution) and the right to data protection (Article 18 (4) of the Spanish Constitution) of D.F.C. and M.F.C had been infringed. And, on the other hand, the Court states the partial invalidity of the judgment of the Supreme Court of 15 October 2015 (Civil Chamber) only in relation to the revocation of the judgment of the Provincial Court of Barcelona prohibiting the indexation of the personal data of D.F.C. and M.F.C in relation to their full name and surname being used for the internal search engine of EL PAIS newspaper.
“A right to the suppression of personal data, already in existence due to the work of Directive 95/46/EC, closely linked to the safeguarding of the fundamental rights of personal data protection against the use of information technology (Article 18.4 Spanish Constitution ), and with the protection of Article 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights and of Convention No. 108 of the Council of Europe for the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data with respect to the automated processing of data of a personal nature.” Basis of Law 5º.
“And among those obligations are the entitlements to the guarantee of fundamental rights, in particular to privacy (Article 7 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights) and to the protection of personal data (Article 8 the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights), this translates into excessive interference in those rights of the activity carried out by the search engines when tracking information about an individual by entering their name is permitted, because that ‘process allows any internet user to obtain, through the list of results, a structured view of the information relative to this individual that can be found on the internet, which potentially affects a multitude of aspects of their private life, which, without said search engine, would not have been interlinked or would only have been found with great difficulty and which allows the user to establish a more or less detailed profile of the individual in question’ (STJUE in the Google case §80).” Basis of Law 5º.
“As argued by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the rights of the individual cited in the indexed press news article, protected in accordance with Article 7 and Article 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, may enter into conflict with the right of internet users to access available information on the network or, as in the case to hand, with the right of the media to provide such information.” Basis of Law 7º.
“Un derecho a la supresión de los datos personales, existente ya por obra de la Directive 95/46/CE, estrechamente vinculado con la salvaguardia del derecho fundamental a la protección de datos personales frente al uso de la informática (art. 18.4 CE), y con la protección del artículo 8 de la Carta de los derechos fundamentales de la Unión Europea y del Convenio núm. 108 del Consejo de Europa para la protección de las personas con respecto al tratamiento automatizado de datos de carácter personal.” Fundamento de Derecho 5º.
“Y entre esas obligaciones están las vinculadas a la garantía de los derechos fundamentales, en particular la intimidad (art. 7 de la Carta de los derechos fundamentales de la Unión Europea) y la protección de datos personales (art. 8 Carta de los derechos fundamentales de la Unión Europea), lo que se traduce en calificar de excesiva la injerencia en esos derechos de la actividad realizada por los buscadores cuando se permite rastrear información sobre una persona introduciendo su nombre, porque ese “tratamiento permite a cualquier internauta obtener mediante la lista de resultados una visión estructurada de la información relativa a esta persona que puede hallarse en Internet, que afecta potencialmente a una multitud de aspectos de su vida privada, que, sin dicho motor, no se habrían interconectado o sólo podrían haberlo sido muy difícilmente y que le permite de este modo establecer un perfil más o menos detallado de la persona de que se trate” (STJUE en el asunto Google, §80).” Fundamento de Derecho 5º.
“Tal y como argumenta el Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea, los derechos de la persona citada en la noticia de prensa indexada, protegidos con arreglo a los artículos 7 y 8 de la Carta de los derechos fundamentales de la Unión Europea, pueden entrar en conflicto con el derecho de los internautas a acceder a la información disponible en la red o, en el caso que nos ocupa, con el derecho de los medios de comunicación a facilitar dicha información.” Fundamento de Derecho 7º.