Google refuses French order to apply ‘right to be forgotten’ globally

1 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Rejects ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Order In France.

Google said Thursday it would not comply with a French privacy regulator’s order to enact the “right to be forgotten” across non-European versions of the site. PARIS (AP) — Google is rejecting an order by the French data privacy agency to remove search results worldwide upon request, saying European law allowing the ‘right to be forgotten’ doesn’t apply globally. In Europe, Google must remove search listings about individuals if they can prove the links reveal out-of-date or inflammatory content about them, under a European Union court ruling from last year. The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) said in June that, when Google receives requests for the delisting of personal information from its search results, it should remove links to that information from all its sites around the world, including google.com. The CNIL wanted the American company to widen its implementation of the so-called European ‘right to be forgotten.’ In its current implementation, Google only delists results from the Google.fr subdomain, and the CNIL wants global delistings.

In a statement posted late Thursday, Google said bowing to CNIL’s request would force it also to agree to similar requests worldwide from any government that doesn’t agree with how the company posts content. “The Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,” the company wrote on its Europe policy blog. In a blog post, Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel at Google, called CNIL’s order “disproportionate and unnecessary,” arguing that if it had obeyed its demand, France would essentially set the standard for internet regulation. It said search engines must take down links to information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” upon request, as long as there are no good reasons to keep them in its results.

In May 2014, a European ruling stated that search engines had to process requests from individuals wanting outdated, inaccurate or irrelevant information delisted from a search result for their name.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. Following several hundred requests from French users, CNIL told Google in June it should apply the ruling globally and remove links from the whole of its network — not just from google.fr and other European sites. “As a matter of principle … we respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue and we have asked the CNIL to withdraw its Formal Notice,” Google said.

This leads to a tension between those who want to see national laws respected in the countries where they apply, and those who see international enforcement as the only way to make that happen. Instead of delisting search results from all versions of Google’s results, the company only delisted French requests from Google.fr, German requests from Google.de, etc. 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. 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. In arguing against the regulator, Google said that setting a global law from one country could eventually allow other countries with histories of censorship to stretch their legal arms abroad. “Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be ‘gay propaganda,’” Fleischer wrote.

Contacted by AFP, CNIL confirmed it had received Google’s response, which came a day before a monthlong 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 could face a fine of up 150,000 euros (Dh610,744), a figure that is dwarfed however by the firm’s $66 billion in worldwide revenues last year. The CNIL said it would give Google 15 days to comply after sending a notice in mid-June, after which it would begin the process of imposing sanctions. Moreover, there shouldn’t be any distinction between European markets, as the European Union has been trying to unify the European market for decades.

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