OCTOBER 08, 2020

Case Law | Habeas data – Right to honor – Information that relates a psychologist to the suicide of a person – Possible public interest.


Data Privacy & Data Protection Department | Case Law | Habeas data – Right to honor – Information that relates a psychologist to the suicide of a person – Possible public interest

“D. C., G. M. v. Google Inc.”, Federal Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial Matters, Division II, 8 October 2020.

A psychologist filed a habeas data interim injunction against Google with the aim of ordering it to remove his personal data from the files, records, and/or databases it manages, alleging that when his name and surname are searched, “information appears where [he] is unjustly accused as the main responsible for the unfortunate death of Ms. G., which is extremely harmful due to its falsehood…” and, also, “images and audios of an intimate and professional nature are disseminated, which were sent as a result of [his] friendship with Ms. R. G.”. He pointed out that the Google search engine “delivers out-of-date and false search results…”. He stressed that he was not linked to R. G. by a professional relationship, but rather by friendship, and that he was not responsible for her death, which was investigated by the criminal and correctional courts, in which he was discharged, and the case dismissed, on the grounds that there was no criminal offense. He argued that the dissemination of false and outdated information about him severely damaged his honor, privacy, and professional activity and caused damage that would be difficult to repair at a later date, considering the wide dissemination of the media through which it was disseminated – the Internet – and the incidence of the time factor.

The Court of Appeals confirmed the rejection of the interim injunction, aimed at the Internet search engine to remove from the suggested searches the results linking a psychologist to the suicide of a person on the grounds that at the preliminary stage of the proceedings, the existence of a certain public interest in the dissemination of the news commented on in the mentioned URLs cannot be ruled out.

The association of the plaintiff’s name with this event is supported by the criminal proceedings that investigated it and the public repercussions that the case had by involving people who were engaged in television media and in communication channels facilitated by the use of the Internet.

It was stressed that the plaintiff’s mere declaration of falsehood of what had been published was insufficient for the purposes of a precautionary ruling in favor of the rights alleged by the plaintiff (honor and privacy), given the tension between these rights and freedom of expression. The Court of Appeals also stated that the manifestly false and injurious nature of the content did not seem to be demonstrated by the dismissal of the publications, because at first sight they would correspond to the object of the judicial investigation (the suspicious death of Ms. R. G.) in its first stages of investigation. Consequently, the subsequent discharge of the plaintiff and consequent dismissal of the case on the grounds that there was no criminal offence could not have the effect that the latter pretends to justify the proposed early limitation. It added that, as a counterpart, the interested party could also exercise his right to express himself and even claim compensation through the relevant proceedings.

Click here to access the full text of the ruling.