France rejects Google appeal on cleaning up search results globally

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France Rejects Google’s Efforts to Limit Application of Privacy Ruling.

French data privacy regulators took a step towards sanctioning Google by rejecting the company’s request to drop a case against it for refusing to clean up information from its search engine results. The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) ordered Google in May to apply RTBF removals not only to the company’s European domains such as or, but to the search engine’s global domain Monday, the country’s data protection authority rejected Google’s efforts to limit how a landmark European privacy ruling may be applied worldwide. Under Europe’s so-called right to be forgotten, individuals can ask search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing to remove information that appears under a search of their name if it is incorrect, out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory.

Google filed an informal appeal in July against the order to the president of CNIL, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, claiming that it would impede the public’s right to information, was a form of censorship and “risks serious chilling effects on the web”. That privacy decision was handed down last year by Europe’s top court, and allowed anyone with connections to Europe to request that global search engines remove links to items about themselves from queries. Since the European Court of Justice ruling last year that granted this right to European residents, Google has fielded nearly 320,000 requests, granting about 40 per cent of them. Falque-Pierrotin has rejected the appeal, saying that once a delisting has been accepted under the RTBF ruling it must be applied across all extensions of the search engine and that not doing so allows the ruling to easily be circumvented.

But it only de-lists the links on European versions of its sites, such as or not globally, meaning the information remains available. CNIL said in a statement: “Contrary to what Google has stated, this decision does not show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially. It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.” The rejection of the appeal means that Google now must comply with the order and remove the hundreds of thousands of delistings from its and other non-European domains for named searches. But an umbrella group of European data protection watchdogs took a similar position in December on the issue of cleaning up search results globally, saying that it was the only way to ensure the “effective and complete protection of data subjects’ rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented”.

The watchdog also said that once Google had agreed to remove the links, the company was required to apply the decision across all of its domains, not just those in Europe. If it refused, the CNIL will spend the next two months preparing sanctions that can include up to 150,000 euros ($169,000) in fines, climbing to 300,000 euros for repeat offences. A Google spokesman said: “We’ve worked hard to implement the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe, and we’ll continue to do so. The French regulator has emphasized that it does not want to control how people around the world surf the web, yet Google and free-speech campaigners have balked at Europe’s attempts to spread the right-to-be-forgotten ruling to other jurisdictions.

In a blog post published in July, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said that no country should control the type of online content available in other nations. He added that such practices could lead to multiple countries’ trying to outdo one another with strict rules, which could eventually reduce all types of materials that are available online. France’s efforts to regulate online privacy come as people in the country remain the most active in Europe when it comes to seeking the removal of online links about themselves.

So far, more than 66,000 such requests based on almost 220,000 online links have been submitted by people living in France, the largest figure of any European country, according to Google’s latest transparency report.

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