In 1997, John Sopinka, then a Supreme Court judge, said that the Internet has enabled individuals to “reach a wide audience with little or no regulation.” This little amount of regulation and the fact that Internet users could hide behind a veil of anonymity, created a peculiar free exchange of ideas. This freedom, in Justice Sopinka’s words, “is a fundamental aspect of any free society and one we guard closely.” The fact that the Internet is under-regulated has turned it into an axis of freedom and any regulation or limitation imposed on it could be construed as limitations on freedom itself.
However, as time passed, people became more and more concerned about privacy issues that arose. In 1998, a Spanish newspaper published two announcements in its print version for an auction that involved selling properties because of social security debts of Mr. Gonzalez. On March 5, 2010, Mr. Gonzalez filed a complaint against the newspaper, Google Spain SL, and Google Inc with Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (“AEPD”). AEPD rejected the complaint against the newspaper, but allowed it against Google. The consequence of this decision is that in Europe, you can ask Google to de-index a website, that has breached your privacy. In a way, as Sophie Gupta puts it, this decision has turned Google into a “censor-in-chief”.
Fast forward to June 2017, the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Google v Equustek. A BC-based technology company Equustek Solutions accused distributor Datalink Technology of stealing their intellectual property and sued. Equustek, also, requested that Google de-index Datalink search results. Google then removed the links to Datalink website, but only on the Canadian version of the search engine. The BCCA and the Supreme Court of Canada found in favour of Equustek and ordered Google to remove the links globally.
Although these two landmark decisions have huge repercussions on freedom of speech and press freedom, they do provide the Internet users with tools to protect their privacy. Today, if someone wants to de-index a website that contains information about him or her, he or she can submit a formal request either directly to Google or to a court.