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Spain / First Chamber of Constitutional Court / STC 58/2018

D.F.C. y M.F.C. vs Administration of Justice and Spanish Public Prosecutor

Policy area:
Information society
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
First Chamber of Constitutional Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
04/06/2018

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.