Top of page

Article Israel: Preventing Web Search Retrieval of Court Decisions Held Unlawful

(Dec. 7, 2015) On November 12, 2015, Israel’s Supreme Court voided a decision by the Court Administration (CA) (the judicial branch of the country) to require companies operating commercial databases to commit to not indexing court decisions retrieved from the CA’s databank.  This requirement would have prevented court decisions published by such companies from being retrieved via Internet search engines, including Google and Bing.  (HCJ 5870/14 (Nov. 12, 2015), Hashavim v. Court Administration, THE STATE OF ISRAEL: THE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY (in Hebrew).)


The petitioner is a company that operates Internet sites including Takdin and Takdin-Light, both of which contain databases of court and other institutional decisions.  (Takdin & Takdin-Light (both last visited Dec. 3, 2015) (both in Hebrew).)  Although similar in content, the sites are based on different business models.  Whereas full access to Takdin requires a yearly subscription, Takdin-Light enables a searcher to identify a specific court decision by using web search engines, read the first 2,500 characters for free, and purchase the full text digital copy for NIS26 (about US$6.70).  (HCJ 5870/14, supra, ¶ 2.)

According to the petitioner, 94% of Takdin-Light visitors arrive at the website via web search engines.  A person may request that a decision containing his/her name be removed from Takdin-Light immediately and without cost.  Although this action is quick and free of charge, the decision will continue to appear on web search engines for a couple of weeks unless removed from them as well.  The petitioner charges an NIS50 (aboutUS$12.87) handling fee for a speedy request to web search engines to expedite the removal.  (Id.)

Legal Issues 

The petition centers on the CA’s updated requirement that the petitioner sign the following commitment as a condition for the petitioner’s continued access to the CA’s court decision databank:

I am aware that the grant of access to information in my possession via openly available web search engines, such as Google and others, may in itself constitute harm to privacy or constitute unlawful publication; I therefore commit to resort to all necessary means to prevent indexing of the [administrative] decisions and court decisions that are transferred to … such search engines.  (Id. ¶ 3.)

According to Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, with Justices Esther Hayut and Uzi Vogelman agreeing, the circumstances of the case raise complex questions on the intersection of law and technology.  Rubinstein comments that judges should be reminded that decisions they draft with the intention to pursue justice may, by the nature of their being published, cause injustice to the litigants.  (Id. ¶ 14.)

Referring to the “right to be forgotten,” as defined by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Rubinstein comments that although the European Court required search engines to examine specific requests for removal of links, the CJEU court decision does not elaborate on the guiding considerations for examination of such requests.  Consequently, Rubinstein adds, “it is hard to say if – according to the system [instituted by] the European Court – there is “a right to be forgotten” also for official court decisions that were lawfully published.”  (Id. ¶ 15; Press Release, No. 70/14, Court of Justice of the European Union, Judgment in Case C-131/12, Google Spain SL v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (May 13, 2014).)  Thus far, Rubinstein noted, U.S. law has not recognized the “right to be forgotten,” based on a long-held principle position of giving priority to freedom of information. (HCJ 5870/14, supra, ¶ 15.)

The question presented by the circumstances of the case at hand, according to Rubinstein, is whether the CA’s requirement that the petitioner sign the commitment substantially contributes to protecting the right to privacy and whether this contribution justifies the resulting harm to the principle of public access.  (Id. ¶ 16.)


Rubinstein held that the CA’s restriction of access to its court decisions’ databank, by requiring a commitment to prevent indexing of court decisions, practically meant preventing the petitioner from advertising Takdin-Light on web search engines and attracting potential clients.  Since most of Takdin-Light visitors reach its website through a Google search, the CA’s restriction might cause grave harm to the petitioner’s business.  (Id. ¶ 21.)

According to Rubinstein, advertising is an essential element in the “chain of business activity.” Prevention of advertising, therefore, might amount to harm to freedom of occupation.  Prevention of commercial speech might simultaneously also harm freedom of expression.  (Id.)  Rubinstein concluded, therefore, that the harm that could result from the CA’s condition for access “was not an insignificant harm to the basic rights of a private body [perpetrated] by a public body.”  (Id.)  The infliction of such harm, according to Rubinstein, requires an expressed authorization in primary legislation, one that is not included under current legislation.  (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

Rubinstein further examined the impact of technology development on the right to privacy.  He recognized that the Court should find a balance among competing principles, namely, the right to privacy, the public right to access to information in government databanks, the principle of open court, and the right to freedom of occupation.  The judicial balancing of these values requires application of three tests (in accordance with Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), The Knesset website (unofficial translation)).  The Court must first examine the likelihood that the CA’s action would reach its goal of protecting the privacy of litigants; second, whether there was any means that could have achieved this goal but cause less harm to the rights affected; and third, whether the benefit of reaching the CA’s objective of privacy protection was proportional to the harm to individual rights.  (HCJ 5870/14, supra, ¶¶ 30-34.)

Having evaluated the circumstances of the case, Rubinstein concluded that the CA’s prevention of indexing court decisions could not protect the privacy of litigants.  This is because its action only prevents indexing by those that receive direct access to its databank; it does not actually limit their indexing by a third party that can publish the decisions on its own (the third party’s) website.  (Id. ¶ 36.) Moreover, it appears that there could be alternative ways for achieving the CA’s goal that would result in a lesser harm.  Examples include raising judicial awareness by conducting judicial seminars on privacy in writing court decisions, by disclosing the verdict only to the litigants a few days before publication on the Internet, by allowing litigants to request the removal of personal irrelevant information, or by passing legislation that, e.g., would require that the names of litigants to be abbreviated.  (Id. ¶ 40.)

An additional reason for rejecting the CA requirement is that blocking access to court decisions would prevent the ability to obtain updates on the development of law in Israel, a country that in many respects belongs to the common law tradition.  As Rubinstein stated, the lack of access to court decisions would block the ability to be constantly informed of the “full scope of the law in Israel.” (Id. ¶ 42.)  Moreover, the petitioner’s Takdin website enables searches by parties’ names, but the CA requirement would not have affected this capability; the requirement only would have affected retrieval of decisions via Takdin-Light.  (Id. ¶ 43.)


Based on the criteria outlined above, Rubinstein concluded that the CA decision was unreasonable and therefore void.  The petitioner thus should enjoy access to the CA’s databank without being bound not to index the decisions to prevent their retrieval by web search engines.  (Id. ¶ 44.)

About this Item


  • Israel: Preventing Web Search Retrieval of Court Decisions Held Unlawful

Online Format

  • web page

Rights & Access

Publications of the Library of Congress are works of the United States Government as defined in the United States Code 17 U.S.C. §105 and therefore are not subject to copyright and are free to use and reuse.  The Library of Congress has no objection to the international use and reuse of Library U.S. Government works on These works are also available for worldwide use and reuse under CC0 1.0 Universal. 

More about Copyright and other Restrictions.

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Law Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Levush, Ruth. Israel: Preventing Web Search Retrieval of Court Decisions Held Unlawful. 2015. Web Page.

APA citation style:

Levush, R. (2015) Israel: Preventing Web Search Retrieval of Court Decisions Held Unlawful. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Levush, Ruth. Israel: Preventing Web Search Retrieval of Court Decisions Held Unlawful. 2015. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.