Search engine operators not allowed to process sensitive data

According to the new judgement of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, search engine operators (Google, Yahoo, Seznam, etc.) are no longer allowed to process sensitive data, or to link to pages where such data is processed.

Sensitive data are data that reveal sensitive information such as ethnic or racial origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, health data and sex life. Further, the processing of data related to unlawful behaviour, criminal records, or security measures may only be carried out, with a few exceptions, under the control of a public authority. The Court points out that this prohibition applies, with some the exceptions under the EU legislation, to all administrators responsible for processing such personal data. Further, the search engine operator is also responsible for personal data published by a third party. This refers to a list of user search results within which a link to a page containing personal information may be located.

Before giving its judgement, The Court of Justice of the European Union considered the conflict between an internet user's right to freedom of information, and their right to privacy. The balance of these two rights depends on the nature of the information, and its sensitivity to person's privacy as well as on the right of free access to information. This sensitivity may differ based on a person's role in public life. But in all cases where the person’s right to privacy prevails, the search engine operator is obliged to block the link to this page.


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