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Google seeks to limit French right to be forgotten ruling

Google is to appeal to the top French court to quash a fine and ruling by French privacy watchdog CNIL that requires Google to apply the right to be forgotten to all its websites

Google is seeking to overturn a ruling by French privacy watchdog CNIL that would require it to censor its search results worldwide.

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that an individual could demand that “irrelevant or outdated” information be deleted from results.

In response, Google has implemented mechanisms to ensure that any search results taken down under the right to be forgotten principle cannot be viewed by anyone in an EU member state.

This means search results covered by the right to be forgotten cannot be accessed by anyone in the European Union even if they conduct searches on non-EU sites, such as Google.com.

But in July 2015, CNIL ruled that the right to be forgotten can be effective only if Google removes affected search results worldwide.

According to CNIL, this is necessary not only to prevent results from being accessed by people outside the EU, but also by anyone using a fake non-EU IP address.

For this reason, CNIL said it is relatively simple for people in EU member states to access international versions of Google and find the deleted results.

But Google rejected the CNIL’s ruling and is seeking to have it overturned in France’s highest court that has the final say over matters of administrative law.

Google is also appealing against the €100,000 fine imposed by CNIL for failing to remove search results covered by the right to be forgotten from all domains.

Read more about the right to be forgotten

  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says Google must remove newer links that reveal the same details as previously removed links
  • Professional services firm Ernst & Young is looking for startups to find technology solutionsto the “right to be forgotten” regulation.
  • Google and other search engines should not decide what links to remove from search results, says a House of Lords EU sub-committee.
  • After a European court ruling upholding the right to be forgotten, US citizens want similar efforts stateside, despite possible infringements on the First Amendment.

Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said the company disagrees with CNIL’s demand “as a matter of both law and principle,” reports the Guardian.

He expressed concern that if French law is allowed to apply globally, it could lead to other less open and democratic countries demanding that laws regulating information also apply globally.

“This order could lead to a global race to the bottom, harming access to information that is perfectly lawful to view in one’s own country,” he said.

Walker said the concern was not just hypothetical because Google has received and resisted demands from governments to remove content globally on various grounds.

GDPR exports EU data views worldwide

According to legal pundits, the case is important because it could determine the extent to which the EU can apply its privacy laws globally.

Although the French court’s review of the appeal is expected to take up to a year, the findings should be published before the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018.

One of the biggest changes to be introduced by the GDPR is that it seeks to establish the extra-territorial power of EU privacy regulators. Through the GDPR, the European Commission (EC) is seeking to export European data protection principles to the rest of the world

Read more on Privacy and data protection

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