Google ruling a ‘victory’ – for Switzerland, too

Spanish lawyer Mario Costeja fought to have sensitive search results deleted, and he won Keystone

Switzerland’s data protection commissioner, Hanspeter Thür, says the ruling that Google must respect people’s “right to be forgotten” on the web should apply to Switzerland, too.

This content was published on May 14, 2014 - 12:05

The European Court of Human Rights made its decision on Tuesday. In an interview in the Wednesday edition of Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Thür said he believed that the ruling would also apply to Switzerland although it is not a member of the European Union.

Google – as well as other internet companies – must be prepared to delete data if somebody asks. The judges at the Luxembourg-based court said on Tuesday that firms may have to remove links that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed”.

The case was initiated by a Spanish man who complained that Google’s search results violated his privacy because they included an auction notice of his repossessed home – an uncomfortable reminder of tough times 16 years ago.

Thür said the ruling should also apply within Switzerland because “essentially, in terms of data protection, we don’t have different terms than the EU, and a Swiss court would probably rule the same way”.

Thür added that he could see no reason why Swiss people, like the Spanish man, couldn’t approach Google directly with their requests.

“I assume Google wouldn’t want to treat Switzerland as a special case,” he said.

Either way, Thür said it was a “strong decision” victory in the name of data protection.

“The legal situation of those affected has improved immensely,” he said.

Google, for its part, has expressed its dismay.

“This is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general. We are very surprised that it differs so dramatically from the Advocate General’s opinion and the warnings and consequences that he spelled out,” as a spokesman for Google told He was referring to the non-binding opinion from the EU Court of Justice issued last year.

The spokesman said Google would now need to take time to analyse the ruling's implications.

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