France Rejects Google’s Push to Limit ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France is now censoring your Google search results, wherever you are.

France’s data protection regulator has rejected Google’s appeal to a May order compelling the search giant to expand Europe’s “right to be forgotten” ruling to every one of its websites worldwide, including Google.com.The so-called right, established last May when a European court ruled that individuals could request search engines to remove links that appeared under their name, has so far only applied within the European Union.PARIS – France’s data protection watchdog on Monday rejected an appeal by Google against a decision ordering the Internet giant to comply with users’ requests to have information about them removed from all search results.

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. However, Google ran into trouble in France over the fact that while it removes these references from its results in searches made in Google.fr or other European extensions, it refuses to do so on Google.com and elsewhere. “This strips away the effectiveness of this law, and varies the rights granted to persons according to the Internet user who consults the search engine, rather than the person concerned,” said the data watchdog CNIL. 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. Lawmakers could then establish a broader scope of the controversial privacy concept that lets European citizens ask Google to remove unfavorable search results.

Google said: “That means a removal request by an individual in France, if approved, would not only be removed from google.fr and other European versions of Google Search, but from all versions of Google Search around the world.” Google appealed the order in July, but this has now been rejected by the CNIL. France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, known as CNIL, ruled in June that Google must expand its takedown practices to all domain names, including those in countries with stronger protections around freedom of speech. The French authority, the CNIL, in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including Google.com. “The President of the CNIL rejects Google’s informal appeal against the formal notice requesting it to apply delisting on all of the search engine’s domain names,” the watchdog said.

CNIL gave Google 15 days to begin removing search results from all of its domain names or face sanctions, which carry with them a relatively light initial penalty of up to €150,000 for one of the world’s most powerful corporations. However, Google refused to comply and in July appealed the decision, arguing that CNIL was not competent “to control” information accessed across the globe.

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”. Google previously said in a statement that the ruling is “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.” But CNIL rejected this claim in a public statement released today (Sept. 21). This decision “simply requests full observance of European legislation by non-European players offering their services in Europe,” said the French data regulator.

Google also accidentally revealed information in a July 2015 transparency report indicating that less than 5 percent of the nearly 220,000 requests up until that point came from criminals, politicians, and public figures attempting to scrub clean their pasts. Google has said that it’s processed more than a quarter of a million requests to delist more than 1 million links since the ruling, and has removed 41.6% of the URL requests it has processed so far.

Meanwhile, the Index on Censorship has previously said that removing results from search engines was “akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books.” And several newspapers have reported that their articles have been removed from search results as a result of the European court’s new right. Rather, CNIL and other regulators have found that even after search results are successfully removed, they are still easily located by switching to the version of Google accessible in another country.

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