Google defies France over making right to be forgotten global

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

CORRECTED(Reuters) – Google Inc is refusing to bow to an order from the French privacy watchdog to scrub search results worldwide when users invoke their “right to be forgotten” online, it said on Thursday, exposing itself to possible fines. Google will disobey a formal notice from France’s privacy watchdog, which has demanded the company extends Europe’s “right to be forgotten” online around the world, in a move that risks further legal action. The French data protection authority, the CNIL, in June ordered the search engine group to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including Google.com. In a controversial ruling last year, the European Court of Justice found citizens have the right to ask internet search engines to remove embarrassing or sensitive results that include their name.

Google said it had evaluated and processed more than a quarter of a million requests to delist links to more than a million web pages since the ECJ’s ruling. The CNIL said Thursday that it would take up to two months to consider Google’s appeal before deciding whether to withdraw its order, or open sanctions proceedings that could lead to an initial fine of up to €150,000 ($165,000) against the online-search firm—a relatively small penalty compared with Google’s annual revenue of $66 billion.

However, it has limited removals to its European websites, such as Google.de in Germany or Google.fr in France, arguing that over 95 percent of searches made from Europe are done through local versions of Google. The Wikipedia information website has described the European ruling as creating “memory holes” in the Internet, while critics of the US Internet giant have said such standards are necessary to protect the privacy of citizens. Google has to vet take-down requests itself, which requires weighing an individual’s privacy rights against the public interest in connecting that individual to a given internet link.

Contacted by AFP, CNIL confirmed it had received Google’s response, which came a day before a month-long deadline it had given the search giant to make changes in adherence with the law. “We are going to look at the arguments and we will respond to this submission within two months,” a CNIL representative said, refusing to rule out possible financial sanctions. Google argues—along with some free speech advocates—that applying the right beyond Europe could open the door to more authoritarian governments attempting to apply Internet-censorship rules beyond their borders. “We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, wrote in a statement provided by a spokesman Thursday. “We respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue.” The CNIL and some other European regulators have assailed the company’s strategy, arguing the ruling says nothing about applying only to European domain names.

They say Google’s approach makes it easy to find private information that individuals had wanted removed by searching its non-European sites, undermining the ruling in Europe. “We have noted Google’s arguments, which are in part political. More ominously, Linn Energy, a small exploration and production company, on Thursday suspended its quarterly distribution to investors to conserve precious cash, which has largely evaporated.

The CNIL for its part has relied only on legal reasoning,” a CNIL spokeswoman said. “There is no effectiveness if the right is applied only in Europe.” The CNIL had initially given Google 15 days to comply with the order when it was issued in late May, but had later extended the deadline to the end of July. However, European regulators and some legal experts think Google ought to apply the ruling globally as it is too easy to circumvent it by switching from one version of Google to another.

The second dip has dashed hopes raised in May that prices would hold steady at about $60 a barrel or inch toward $65, a level that many U.S. shale oil producers have said would allow them to add drilling rigs. ● U.S. home rental prices climbed much faster than incomes in June. Meanwhile, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.98 percent this week from 4.04 percent a week earlier. Athens and Brussels this week started a new round of negotiations on a $93.8 billion bailout. ● The Senate passed legislation that will triple the maximum fines that automakers pay for violations of motor-vehicle safety laws. The new $105 million cap was part of a six-year surface transportation policy bill on which the Senate voted Thursday. ● Procter & Gamble’s sales fell for the sixth straight quarter as the world’s biggest consumer-goods company was weighed down by softer sales volume and unfavorable exchange rates. That was below the $18.06 billion Wall Street expected. ● Mexico said it would quadruple daily dollar sales to $200 million in an effort to prop up the peso, helping to reverse a market slide that has left the currency at a record low.

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