EU: Opinion on Data Protection Issues Related to Search Engines
On 4 April 2008, The Art. 29 Data Protection Working Party adopted an opinion on data protection issues related to search engines. In this Opinion the Working Party aims to strike a balance between the legitimate business needs of the search engine providers and the protection of the personal data of internet users. To serve this primary objective, the Opinion identifies a clear set of responsibilities under the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) for search engine providers as controllers of user data and addresses the definition of search engines, the kinds of data processed in the provision of search services, the legal framework, purposes/grounds for legitimate processing, the obligation to inform data subjects, and the rights of data subjects.
A key conclusion of the Opinion is that the Data Protection Directive generally applies to the processing of personal data by search engines, even when their headquarters are outside the EEA, and that the onus is on search engines in this position to clarify their role in the EEA and the scope of their responsibilities under the Directive. The Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC) is clearly highlighted as not applicable to search engine providers