Google only has to delete links to articles if sufficient evidence of incorrect information is provided by those affected, according to a decision made by the Federal Court of Justice in Germany. Search engine operators are not obliged to investigate themselves or to approach those affected under the ruling, which is based on Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation.
The court was based on a European Court of Justice ruling from 2022, which stipulated that those affected must prove that the information about them is obviously incorrect before any links would be removed from the hit list. The court also decided that no preview images without context should be allowed and must be removed.
The case involved a couple from the financial services industry who wanted articles about their investment model removed from Google’s search results. These articles, which were published on a US website in 2015, contained negative reports and were accompanied by photos of the plaintiffs. Google did not remove the links, saying it could not decide whether the allegations were true.
Following decisions from the Cologne Higher Regional Court and the Federal Court of Justice, the case was referred back to the ECJ. The court ruled that affected individuals must provide sufficient evidence that the information contained in the content is manifestly incorrect and that Google must remove the links if that evidence is provided.
The BGH has now decided that Google must also remove thumbnails, as the display of plaintiffs’ photos without context was not justified. The case was discussed in April, with the plaintiffs arguing that images from an article showing them in luxury should be deleted, while Google claimed that the motifs should only be deleted if they were stored with the link to the article in question.