Google Belgium was imposed a fine of €600,000 by the Data Protection Authority (DPA) because the search engine did not respect a citizen’s right to be forgotten, the DPA announced on Tuesday.
“The right to be forgotten must strike the correct balance between, on the one hand, the public’s right of access to information and, on the other hand, the rights and interests of the data subject,” said Hielke Hijmans, Director of the DPA’s Litigation Chamber.
Google had received a request from someone, “who by virtue of his function plays a role in public life in Belgium,” to remove the search results linked to his name from the search engine.
These search results reportedly involved references to possible links with a political party and references to a harassment complaint that was declared unfounded a long time ago.
Google refused to delete the search results. According to the Litigation Chamber, this was justified with regard to possible links with a political party, but Google should have removed the references to the harassment complaint.
“Since the allegations against the plaintiff were not established, are old and are likely to have serious consequences for the complainant, the rights and interests of the person concerned must prevail,” the DPA ruled.
Google was “particularly negligent” according to the DPA, because it “had evidence that the facts were irrelevant and outdated.”
The fine is more than ten times higher than the highest fine imposed so far by the DPA (€50,000).