Google to defy French ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google contests global ‘right to be forgotten’ order.

BRUSSELS — 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. Right now, if you live in France and ask for your name and any associated Web sites to be removed from Google search results, the company will de-list the results, provided your request meets a few requirements.LUXEMBOURG — Google is pushing back against France’s data privacy authority after the watchdog ordered the search engine giant to extend the so-called right to be forgotten to its websites globally. France’s data protection authority CNIL should withdraw an ultimatum threatening Google with fines unless it delists requested links across its network, the Mountain View, California-based company said in a blog post Thursday. “We respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in the post.

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 This debate raises familiar tensions between privacy and expression; it’s a struggle that has played out over Facebook’s real-name policy, over the online harassment that occurs on sites such as Reddit, and in other online spaces, too. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in May 2014 that EU-wide privacy legislation applies to foreign search engines operating in the region. However, it has limited removals to its European websites, such as in Germany or in France, arguing that over 95 percent of searches made from Europe are done through local versions of Google.

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. You might be familiar with the idea of state sovereignty — the notion that a government has an internationally recognized authority over its own territory. She currently also heads the group of EU data protection commissioners who urged Google to remove links, when needed, from .com sites and not just from European sites. 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. 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.

While it is relatively easy to apply rules to country-specific versions of a website, such as those with addresses ending in Germany’s “.de” or France’s “.fr,” there is nothing to stop people visiting other versions of the site to find missing information. In a statement of objections they accused the Internet giant of abusing its dominance of the search-engine market and on the same day started a new investigation into Google’s Android mobile-phone software. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said this month she sees no need to wait to finish her current case before filing new antitrust complaints against the company.

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