France rejects Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ appeal

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France rejects Google appeal on ‘right to be forgotten’ globally.

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 Libertes ordered Google in May to apply RTBF removals not only to the company’s European domains, such as or, but to has been ordered to extend the “right to be forgotten” across the world after the French privacy watchdog rejected its argument that it should be confined to Europe.

France’s data protection watchdog has rejected Google’s appeal against an earlier enforcement notice in which the CNIL told the company to expand search delisting requests across all its domains, not just European sub-domains as Google currently is. 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such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing to remove information that appears under a search of their name if it is incorrect, out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory.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 commission’s president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, claiming it would impede the public’s right to information, was a form of censorship and “risks serious chilling effects on the web”.

Quick backgrounder here: Search delisting in Europe — often dubbed the ‘right to be forgotten’ (rtbf) — refers to a decision by Europe’s top court back in May 2014 ruling that search engines are data controllers and thus must comply with existing European data protection legislation. 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 percent of them. Ms Falque-Pierrotin rejected the appeal, saying once a delisting has been accepted under the RTBF ruling it must be applied across all extensions of the search engine and not doing so allows the ruling to be circumvented. Specifically the judgement means private citizens in Europe have the right to request from search engines that outdated, irrelevant or inaccurate information associated with a search for their name be delisted from that specific name search. But it only de-lists the links on European versions of its sites, such as or not globally, meaning the information remains available.

So it requires search engines make difficult value judgements about individuals making requests — such as whether a person has any public role — as well as evaluating the specifics of their request (e.g. what constitutes ‘outdated’ information?). 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 Yet it has also led to calls in the U.S. for greater pro-privacy protections for private individuals in an age of big data and instant access to information. If it refused, the CNIL will spend the next two months preparing sanctions that can include up to €150,000 in fines, climbing to €300,000 for repeat offences.

Returning to today’s French ruling, Google had appealed the earlier notice from the CNIL to expand delisting to but that’s now been slapped down by the data protection authority. The DP also refutes Google’s argument that delisting on constitutes an extraterritorial application of French law — saying it merely constitutes “full compliance of European law by non-European players offering their services in Europe”.

However the European Union is in the process of updating the region’s data protection regulations — with larger financial penalties for breaches being negotiation — of potentially up to 5 per cent of a company’s global turnover.

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