Data Blog #2. Censorship or protection? EU and U.S. differences


Have you ever realized that a Google search result is different when you search for a name on or Probably not, but it’s true! The 2014 decision in the Google Spain case and subsequent discussions concerning the Right to be Forgotten illustrate the EU’s protective stance towards privacy and data issues of their citizens. The US, on the other hand, takes on a less protective approach. This has nothing to do with the EU being ‘over protective’ or the U.S. government simply ‘not caring’, the controversies rather stem from different legal interpretations and established rules and regulations in both systems.

In the EU an individual’s right to request removal of a listing overrides the economic interest of companies and the general public interest of access to information. The main aim of EU data protection is to protect the individual. However, the rules and regulations we have in the EU concerning the topic are irreconcilable with the U.S. First Amendment. Culturally the U.S. has placed a high significance on the right of free speech and most likely the Internet will fall within the category ‘speech’. An individual requesting a company such as Google to delete a listing from its search results would rather be seen as an attempt to censor instead the protection of data or privacy. Additionally, the US approach states that search engines are not responsible for the content published by other websites. Therefore they should not be held liable for the consequences stemming from it.

As a user of search engines, whether you are European or American, the impact of the different approaches is not imminent. There is a difference in search results for people’s names, and if you use an EU Google search engine (i.e. or to search for a person’s name you will see “Some results have been removed under data protection law in Europe” at the bottom of the page. However, the different approaches can have a significant impact for people that wish to have a listing removed. In the U.S. the chance that such a person would succeed is small, if not non-existent. That is not to say that either approach is better than the other, the way certain rights and freedoms are valued and balanced are simply different amongst both jurisdictions. For more information click here.

At we believe we are heading towards a networked society (Society 3.0). Which approach would be more favorable in the new society? Would it be the EU-approach with a focus on protecting individual rights? Or rather the U.S. approach with an emphasis on the freedom of free speech? Maybe the role of courts and laws becomes irrelevant in Society 3.0, and instead social norms and inter-personal discussion replace the legal order we have come accustomed to. Who knows! Let me know what you think.