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The Deletion of Google Search Results:
German Lawyer explains

Unwanted entries, ratings or photos on Google or other search engines can give a false image of you or your company and damage your reputation. Nowadays, in so many situations, information is sought through Google. For example, in recruitment, it is a good idea to get a more detailed picture of the person in question before making the big decision. Google search results can therefore be an obstacle to an application or promotion. Harmful entries about a company can be a deterrent to potential customers and thus damage the business. The deletion of Google Search results is an option available to private individuals and companies.

If the harmful content violates your or your company’s rights, you have the right to have the entries deleted. There are several ways to enforce this claim. Our attorneys will help you personally or your company to check search results and have them removed from Google and other search engines. In this article we will outline some of the means by which this can be carried out, however, if you are looking for specialised, expert assistance from lawyers in the field, make sure to contact our legal team directly. Our law firm is dedicated to delivering excellent service to our clients. Contact us today to find out more.

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Lawyer for Press & Media Law: Dr. Matthias Wurm

Dr. Matthias Wurm
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The deletion of Google Search results can protect your company’s reputation.

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How the Deletion of Google Search Results can be Achieved

To remove search results, there are two main avenues. One is to have them deleted by the search engine operator. For this purpose, the search engine operators provide appropriate forms on the internet. On the other hand, one can request the operator of the actual web page to remove the information. If the entries on the web page were removed, then the search machines can also not display these search results any longer. However, this can take some time, depending on how often the search engines’ database is updated. To speed up this process, you can request Google to remove these search results.

Taking action against individual websites that provide the specific content can take a lot of effort and time. If necessary, the desired success can be achieved more easily with a deletion request at Google. On the other hand, a dispute with Google can also mean a lengthy process with a lot of effort and time spent on justification, and direct action against the operator of the website may seem more sensible. It is often advisable to take both paths in parallel and to request both the operator of the source and the search engine operator to remove the infringing content.

If the requests are not complied with, a warning can follow. With this warning, the concrete claim for deletion or injunction is asserted. Only if there is no reaction or rejection after that, the filing of a lawsuit should be considered. In case of urgency, provisional legal protection can be applied for.


Request for Deletion of Google Search Results

If you would like Google to remove search results, you can submit a deletion request. This is done by filling out a form provided by Google. A distinction must be made between removing personal information for privacy reasons and removing content for other legal reasons, such as copyright infringement or circumvention. If several entries are to be deleted, a form must be filled out for each entry.

Personal data is data by which a person can be identified. This includes name, contact information such as address, telephone number or e-mail address, the number of an official identification document and bank account or credit card numbers. For example, the deletion of intimate personal pictures and other private life content can also be requested. In addition, a request for deletion of medical information, financial information and contact details that have been passed on with malicious or harassing intent (so-called doxing) can be made.

The removal of a Google entry will only be carried out if there is a plausible reason. An individual examination of each case is carried out. The rights of the individual, such as data protection and copyright, are weighed against the public interest in the information and the right to information processing.


What Information must be Provided in the Request for Deletion of Google Search Results?

The request of deletion must indicate the country of origin and the name of the applicant. The request may also be made by an authorized representative on behalf of another person. In addition, an e-mail address must be provided for queries and, depending on the specific form, a document for proof of identity must be uploaded as a file.

The applicant must specify the personal data or content to be removed and its location. For this purpose, the corresponding URL(s) and all their variants must be determined. In addition, a reason for removal must be specified. In the case of the form for removal due to European data protection, a reason must be given. On the one hand, the extent to which the personal data are related to the person for whom the request is made must be stated. Secondly, it is explained why the personal data should be removed from the search results. It is necessary to provide a detailed and correct justification as to why the content is illegal. The infringement should be presented in a comprehensible manner. It is recommended to consult an experienced lawyer for this purpose.

The application form must be filled out completely and correctly so that the application can be processed. Finally, the application must be dated and signed.


Effect of the Deletion and Procedure in Case of Rejection of the Application

The duration of the application processing depends on the individual case. It often takes two to three weeks. If Google grants the request and carries out the desired deletion, this will have the effect that the affected entry will no longer be listed in Google searches. However, the contents will remain on the corresponding website, so that links will remain in place. They are therefore still available on the Internet. In spite of this, the removal of the entry from the search results is worth a lot because without the listing in the search results, attention is not drawn to the content at all. This makes it invisible for most people. It should also be noted that due to European data protection laws, the form for deletion is only valid within the EU, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.

If Google does not grant the request to remove the content, it may be advisable to contact Google again with a warning. For the preparation of a legally sound justification of your request for removal, legal support is recommended. However, if even a warning does not help, a lawsuit against Google for an obligation to delete can be considered. Our attorneys will carefully review your case and ensure that the right steps are taken to remove Google entries.


Have Search Suggestions Removed

Search engines are equipped with an autocomplete function, which automatically completes search entries. It can happen that the search suggestions displayed in this way constitute a violation of the law. This is the case, for example, if the function displays false factual statements as search suggestions. This may constitute a violation of the general right of personality.

If you want to take action against unwanted search suggestions, you should first contact the operator of the search engine itself and request that it be deleted. The search engine operator is only responsible if he/she becomes aware of the violation of rights (BGH, judgement of 14.05.2013, Az. VI ZR 269/12). If a warning has not been considered after the deletion was not carried out, legal action should be taken.


Deletion of Google Search Results claim According to § 17 GDPR

A right to have personal data deleted may exist in accordance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO), which has been directly applicable in all EU member states since May 25, 2018. Article 17 GDPR regulates the right to be forgotten. According to this article, a person is entitled in certain cases to the immediate deletion of personal data. Among other things, this right exists if the data concerned is deemed no longer necessary for the original processing purposes. In addition, the data subject has a right to have his or her data deleted if his or her consent to processing is revoked, if there is no other legal basis, if necessary if an objection is lodged, and in the event of unlawful data processing. In addition, data must be erased without delay if this is necessary to comply with a legal obligation under Union or national law.

However, exceptions to the right to be forgotten also apply. In particular, there is no right to erasure if the data processing is necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and information. This is determined by weighing the public interest in information or freedom of expression against the interest of the data subject in having the data deleted.

Both the operator of the website and the search engine operator may be obliged to refrain from processing the data. Only natural persons, and thus no companies, can invoke data protection law.


Deletion based on the General Right of Personal Freedoms

A claim for deletion of entries in search engines can also be based on the general right of personal freedoms. This results from Art. 2 of the German Constitution (Grundgesetz (GG)) in connection with Art. 1 para. 1 GG. Among other things, it includes the right to informational self-determination. Because the individual should be entitled to decide on the disclosure of personal data. Furthermore, the narrower personal sphere of life, which includes private and family life, is also protected.

In this context, the general right of personal freedoms concerned represents the antithesis to the public interest in free communication, freedom of information and expression of opinion. However, no public interest can exist if it is based on untrue factual claims. These are unlawful and not covered by freedom of opinion. Facts are accessible to evidence compared to expressions of opinion. If it is a matter of factual claims that are true but affect the privacy of the person concerned, a weighing of interests must be carried out. Good and comprehensive argumentation can be decisive in this process. A weighing of interests also takes place in the case of expressions of opinion that encroach on the general right of personal freedoms.

Violations of the general right of personal freedoms are asserted in cases of abusive criticism and insults. It should be noted that the person concerned must accept criticism, even if it is exaggerated. It must also be taken into account whether the person in question is a public figure. In the case of so-called abusive criticism, however, there is a violation of the right of personal freedoms. For it is superficially about defaming the person concerned. The aim is to belittle the person without any further discussion of the matter.

It is true that the search engine operator is not the author of the infringement. However, a so-called “Stoererhaftung” (breach of Duty of Care) can be considered in that the search engine operator displays the entry that violates rights of personal freedoms. However, there is no obligation to check contents uploaded to the internet for legal violations. Rather, “Stoererhaftung” (Breach of Duty of Care) requires that the content that infringes personal rights be displayed beforehand so that the search engine operator has the opportunity to check it (BGH, ruling dated 27.02.2018, file number VI ZR 489/16).


Corporate Personality Right

If a company is affected by harmful content on the Internet, the company’s right of privacy may be violated. This serves to protect the social scope and respect of a company. In particular, it is intended to protect the reputation of a company and thus the business from damaging statements. Here, too, a distinction must be made between true and untrue factual statements. If it concerns expressions of opinion, it must be examined whether these are still permissible or whether they are abusive criticism. However, the level of criticism that a company has to put up with exceeds that which a natural person has to put up with. It concerns thus a smaller extent of protection.


Legal Advice and Support in the Deletion of Google Search Results

If harmful search results about you or your company are displayed on Google or other search engines, our attorneys will be happy to help you remove them. We will check for you to what extent your rights have been infringed by the content in question and on what legal basis you are entitled to removal. In addition, we will draft a promising justification for your request for removal from the specific search engine. Furthermore, we correspond with the respective operator of the search engine or website and ensure that the harmful content is actually deleted. Legal support can prove to be profitable, especially when issuing a warning and in the case of legal action.

At Schlun & Elseven we are a full-service law firm based in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf. Our firm is dedicated to delivering excellent service to our clients in their dealings with the German legal system and in any legal disputes which may arise. Contact us today if you require the advice of legal experts with the deletion of Google Search results, our lawyers are ready when you are.

Contact a lawyer for removing entries on Google Search

Please use the contact form to inform us about your concerns concerning the deletion Google Search results. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct our media lawyers.