While America has recently been handing down court rulings in favor of loosening online privacy restrictions, America’s friends across the pond have been using their court system to do the exact opposite.

On Nov. 6, a French court ruled that Google must filter private images of former Formula One racing boss Max Mosley from its image search engine, a victory for web-privacy advocates in Europe.

Paris’s Tribunal de Grande Instance sided with Mosley’s suit to have nine of his personal images scrubbed from the Internet. The images were sexual explicit photographs secretly filmed in 2008. Both the U.K. and France had previously ruled that the photos, published by the British News of the World, had been a breach of privacy.

In the ruling, the Tribunal ordered Google to filter out the images, as well as pay a symbolic €1 ($1.35) in damages. Those who spoke with the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) were unsure how Google would comply with the government’s ruling. The web site already removes questionable images from search upon request, but Mosley’s suit contended that Google should filter the images automatically.

“This is a welcome decision,” said Mosley in a statement through his lawyers. “The court has now ordered Google to stop reproducing the images, and I would be delighted if this judgment can help others limit the enormous and continuous damage that can be caused by search engines providing access to illegal images.”

This ruling could have ramifications among similar cases in Europe. Although privacy advocates are joyous, others fear the ruling could hamper Internet freedom of speech. “This decision should worry those who champion the cause of freedom of expression on the Internet,” said Daphne Keller, Google’s associate general counsel.

Of course, with privacy advocates within the European Union pushing a “right to be forgotten” policy, more of these cases could pop up in the near future. The “right to be forgotten” is a proposed new data privacy law that would adopt a right for individuals to request that information about them be removed from the Web. According to the WSJ, government leaders expect the measure to be adopted in 2015.


For more InsideCounsel stories on Internet privacy, check out these articles:

Supreme Court passes on evaluating Facebook class action settlement

Proactive risk management protects against exposure from increasing regulation of privacy interests

Security, compliance concerns at the heart of cloud solutions

Why GCs need to take a closer look at ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policies