Germany’s top court has upheld a complaint by a man convicted of murder in 1982 against archived news reports online that include his name.
The court upheld his right to be forgotten online by getting his name removed from online search results. It ruled that while it was allowable for search engines to provide news reports on current crimes, the justifiable public interest in reports that made perpetrators identifiable decreased with time.
In 1982, when he was a member of the crew of a ship sailing in the Caribbean he shot and killed a couple after arguments. He was sent to jail for 10 years.
A TV documentary and a book were spun out of his case and a magazine published three reports on him. In 1999, the magazine put these reports in its online archive.
The man went to court to have these reports removed but Germany’s Federal Court of Justice dismissed his suit in 2012. It ruled that public inetrest in the case and press freedom were more important than his right to privacy.
The man had argued that the reports on the murder case available on the internet violated his ability to develop his personality. The court said he had been trying to cultivate social relationships without the burden of being associated with the crime.
His case will now return to the federal courts and can result in restricted access to online reports containing his name.
Citizens of the European Union enjoy the right to erasure or to be forgotten online by getting their personal information removed from search engines. However, under this law, search engines are not required to restrict access to a European citizen’s information outside Europe.
In September this year, Google won a landmark case in which the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Europe’s top court, ruled that the right to be forgotten rules did not apply outside the European Union.