The various institutions of the EU operate under the terms of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (or TFEU) - see the consolidated versions of the treaties.
So far as the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) is concerned, TFEU Article 19 states:
In a case brought by Mario Costeja Gonzalez
against Google Spain, a preliminary ruling was requested by the Audiencia Nacional in Spain. Such rulings are permissible under TFEU Article 267.
The Court of Justice of the European Union shall have jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings concerning:
a) the interpretation of the Treaties;
b) the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union
Where such a question is raised before any court or tribunal of a Member State, that court or tribunal may, if it considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, request the Court to give a ruling thereon.
Where any such question is raised in a case pending before a court or tribunal of a Member State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law, that court or tribunal shall bring the matter before the Court.
If such a question is raised in a case pending before a court or tribunal of a Member State with regard to a person in custody, the Court of Justice of the European Union shall act with the minimum of delay.
Mr Gonzalez argued that when an internet user entered his name in the search engine of the Google Group, the list of results displayed links to media reports published in 1998 about a real estate auction following attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Gonzalez. The matter had been settled for a number of years and Gonzalez did not wish searches to reveal it.
On the preliminary reference, the CJEU ruled that in certain circumstances the "operator" (Google in the case) is obliged to remove links to web pages published by third parties (such as newspapers) and which contain information relating to a person. A fair balance had to be sought between those seeking the information and the individual "data-subject" rights to privacy and protection of personal data.
The CJEU judgment concerned the interpretation of EU Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. The court's judgment is HERE and a PRESS RELEASE was also issued.
Individuals inevitably have certain information they wish to keep private and their reasons for doing so vary considerably. It is reported that, following the ruling, a considerable number of "take down" requests have been sent to Google - see BBC 15th May - Politician and paedophile ask Google to 'be forgotten'
UK Constitutional Law Association takes a look at the judgment and its likely impact - David Erdos: CJEU judgment profoundly challenges the current realities of freedom of expression and information online
See also the Information Commissioner's Office blog - Four things we've learned from the EU Google judgment
D. Erdos, ‘Mind the Gap’ Open Democracy (15th May 2014) (available at OpenDemocracy) OR D. Erdos, ‘Mind the Gap – The CJEU Google Spain Judgment Profoundly Challenges the Current Realities of Freedom of Expression and Information Online’ U.K. Const. L. Blog (15th May 2014) (available at http://ukconstitutionallaw.org/).