Content Regulation / Censorship, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention, Defamation / Reputation
Hegglin v. Google
Closed Contracts Expression
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
The Mexican Access to Information and Data Protection Committee of the Federal Judiciary Council (Committee) ordered that an individual’s personal data be removed from physical and electronic copies of judicial notices of the proceedings that he had been a party to. José Ramón Baustista Pérez Salazar requested the deletion of his personal data from these notices after he found the data had been made available on a commercial website, which he argued harmed his right to privacy and exposed him to discrimination. The Committee repealed the decision of a District Court that denied the request, and found that the personal data should be removed because the purpose of the notices had come to an end.
José Ramón Baustista Pérez Salazar (applicant) had been party to proceedings before the Sixth District Court of Amparo on Criminal Matters in the Federal District (District Court). In this context, his personal information appeared in the judicial notices of proceedings that were publicly accessible in hardcopy at the District Court, as well as in electronic form through the internet. He requested the deletion of his personal data from these notices after he found their content had been made available through the DataJuridica website (http://mx.datajuridica.com). DataJuridica was a commercially run search engine that allowed for the name of a natural or juridical person to be searched across several official government databases in order to find out whether they had been involved in any judicial proceedings. According to DataJuridica, they took their information directly from the official databases and did not modify or adapt this data. Hence, their results would always reflect the official databases, and the applicant’s name would continue appearing on their site as long as his name remained on the notices. The DataJuridica website contained a disclaimer indicating that search results would be returned in response to a name search if that person had been party to proceedings as either a plaintiff or a respondent. Despite this, the applicant complained that his name appearing on the DataJuridica search engine had exposed him and his family to discrimination because it was left to the speculation of the search engine user what these judicial proceedings related to. He also argued that the continued publication of his data in these notices violated his right to privacy, intimacy and honor.
The District Court rejected the applicant’s request on the basis of Article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which the District Court interpreted as demanding transparency in the administration of justice. In order to support this interpretation, the District Court highlighted the fact that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights itself publishes all matters decided by it. The District Court also indicated that publishing the name of persons who brought forward writs of amparo protects these persons from identity theft. In addition, the District Court noted that transparency in the administration of justice benefits not only the parties to the proceedings, but also society as a whole. The District Court also noted that publishing the names of persons who bring forward writs of amparo was necessary so third parties who might be interested in intervening in the proceedings could have the opportunity do so. Finally, the District Court considered that the applicant had not proven the harm he had allegedly suffered because of the publication of his data on the official notices.
Not satisfied with this decision, the applicant filed a writ of habeas data with the Access to information and Data Protection Committee of the Federal Judiciary Council, which issued a decision on April 10, 2014.
The issue for the Access to information and Data Protection Committee of the Federal Judiciary Council (Committee) to decide was whether it was appropriate to make effective the applicant’s rights to deletion and opposition in relation to the publication of his personal data in the official notices of the Sixth District Court of Amparo on Criminal Matters in the Federal District (District Court).
The Committee began its analysis by noting that what the applicant was requesting was the deletion of his personal data from the public notices of proceedings that could be consulted by everyone physically at the District Court or electronically through the internet. The applicant did not request the deletion of his data from the actual case files to which access was more restricted.
The Committee then proceeded to note that the inclusion of the applicants’ data on the physical notices had been made in accordance with the law applicable to amparo proceedings, which required the identification of parties involved in cases in public notices.
The Committee then went on to note that data protection rights are not absolute, and can be subject to laws that create exceptions to the protections for the purpose of national security, public order, public health and safety, or protecting the rights of others. The Committee observed that the publication of notices did not require the consent of the parties to the proceedings as they served the procedural purpose of allowing interested parties to follow the progress of the proceedings.
However, the Committee considered that, once the communicative purpose of the notices had come to an end and the proceedings had concluded, “it is no longer necessary to maintain the personal data of the parties published, as the publication of the list has fulfilled its purpose and therefore, the holder of the data protection rights has the right to be forgotten.”
In respect of the electronic lists, the Committee noted that, unlike the physical lists, there was no legal requirement for the District Court to publish these lists. Moreover, the Committee highlighted that the Federal Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information Law required that authorities suppress personal data from electronically published notices if the data protection rights holder exercises their right to oppose the publication. The Committee highlighted that, in contrast to physical lists, information published electronically has a greater risk to an individual’s private life since it can be misused for purposes distinct from those for which it was generated and it can be more susceptible to public diffusion. Based on this, the Committee considered that it was also appropriate to grant the applicant’s request that his personal data be suppressed from the electronic lists.
The Commitee addressed the District Court’s arguments concerning the importance of publicity and transparency in the administration of justice. The Commitee recognized that these principles were enshrined in Article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Mexican law, and highlighted that these principles prevented deletion of the parties’ names from the cases files. However, the Committee concluded that the applicant was not requesting for such deletion, but only the suppression of his data from the judicial notices.
Thus, the Committee revoked the District Court’s decision, and ordered the suppression of the applicant’s data from both the physical and the electronic versions of the District Court notices.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This decision contracts the right to freedom of expression by permitting an individual to rely on a “right to be forgotten” in order to remove their names from official judicial notices of proceedings in hardcopy and electronic form. In doing so, the decision recognizes that such a right can apply to the publication of data in physical form (rather than simply in the context of automatic or electronic data processing).
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.