An important decision was made by the DPA in connection with a complaint lodged in 2004. The case had to do with the retrieval on the Internet of a decision issued by the Italian Antitrust Authority (which is not a judicial authority) against a company on account of misleading advertising; the said decision had been issued in 1996, and was subsequently posted on the Authority´s web site. The complainant alleged that the fact of the decision´s being still available on the Internet whenever information concerning his current activities was being retrieved was in breach of his right to oblivion.
In the DPA´s decision, it was stated that the publication by the Antitrust Authority was lawful as it was provided for by the law, which however did not specify the detailed mechanisms of such publication; however, to ensure that the processing on the Internet was not in breach of data protection legislation, two measures were to be taken:
a) creation of a restricted-access section in the Antitrust Authority´s website where to post decisions such as the one in question (dating back to 1996), which must not be retrievable by means of the standard external search engines;
b) setting out by the Antitrust Authority of the period during which posting and free retrieval of a decision on the Authority´s website can be regarded as proportionate in view of achieving the purposes sought by the decision in question.
It should be stressed that the Antitrust Authority complied with the guidelines set out by the DPA; in particular, by applying the so-called "Robot Meta Tags" to certain pages (including the one containing the decision at stake), the Authority prevented them from being retrievable by means of search engines. Additionally, the proportionate period for posting information on the Authority´s website without any restriction - such as the one mentioned above - was found to be five years as based on the relevant antitrust legislation, whereby the sanctions to be imposed on repeated offenders are statute-barred after five years.
On the issues related to search engines and oblivion rights, the DPA adopted another decision in November 2005 dealing, in particular, with the retention and availability on the Internet of newspaper articles dating back to several years before. The articles in question were no longer available on the website of the specific newspaper that had published them, however they could still be retrieved via Google – which showed, interestingly, the parallel processing carried out by Google by means of cache copies and the respective abstracts.