Google Inc. declined to comply with an order issued by a state privacy watchdog in France and de-list the search results that infringe the “right to be forgotten” from its search engine worldwide.
The move may result in new fines for the tech company in Europe.
The right to be forgotten or “le droit d’oubli” – “the right to oblivion” – as the French name it allows a user to ask Google to de-list some compromising or defamatory links linked to its personal life from search results. Up to this moment, Google needed to remove the links only on the European versions of its search engine, but France wants now to push the right globally.
The state’s data protection authority CNIL based its request on a last year’s ruling issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ordered Google to respect people’s right to be forgotten within Europe’s boundaries.
According to the ruling, any data such as information, images, or video footage considered “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” by a person can be de-listed upon request.
But Google noted that the right to be forgotten is “the law” only in Europe, not globally. The company also argued that no state has the right to censor the information residents in another state can access and deemed France’s demand “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the Web”.
A Google spokesperson even envisioned a world in which CNIL’s request was a rule regulating the Internet worldwide.
“In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,”
the company concluded.
Since May 2014 when the ECJ issued its famous ruling, Google was flooded with more the 250,000 requests to de-list content on more than 1 million web pages. The ruling also applies to other companies’ search engines including Microsoft’s Bing.
Ninety-seven percent of French Google users access online content from the French version of the engine – Google.fr. But CNIL wants content to be removed from Google.com, as well.
Yet, the tech giant recently said that it “respectfully disagreed” with France’s position on the issue because the country doesn’t have the authority to make such decisions on behalf of the entire planet. The company also urged the French data protection agency to drop its Formal Notice.
Though European authorities are more concerned over the right to privacy of their residents, U.S. critics believe that the right to be forgotten may become a gateway to Internet censorship.
Image Source: 9to5Google
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