Israeli Courts Bar Google From Accessing Court Rulings

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A man walks past a Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., June 5, 2014.Credit: AP

The courts have ordered databases — including Google — to prevent search engines from accessing court rulings, out of the desire to protect the privacy of litigants where private information about them is exposed broadly on the Internet available to anyone.

Legal-database company Takdin has petitioned the High Court of Justice against the decision, which was made without public debate or legislation and was issued on August 18.

Legal databases will have to declare that providing access to the information they have through the use of open search engines such as Google could be a violation of privacy or illegal publication. They will have to take all steps necessary to prevent the indexing of decisions they receive from the Courts Administration.

Takdin says the administration does not have the authority to make such an important decision on the balance between conflicting rights.

It says the decision violates the principle of open legal proceedings as enshrined in the Basic Law on the Judiciary, and that the ruling discriminates because paying subscribers — most of them lawyers — will still have access to all rulings in databases while everyone else will not.

The Basic Law on the Judiciary favors open legal proceedings but allows exceptions when a serious violation of privacy is in question. The 1984 law does not discuss the Internet, of course, but refers to the right to open court proceedings.

The question of publishing personal details in court rulings is also being discussed  by a committee headed by a former Supreme Court justice, Yitzhak Engelhard.

The database companies had been negotiating the wording of the agreement for more than a year. Not all legal databases have let search engines index their data, but some such as Takdin have.

Only some court decisions have been open to the public; others could be viewed for a fee. Takdin, for its part, says it seeks to make the legal system accessible to the public that does not work in the legal profession.

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