Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten’ policy is heading back to the EU’s top court in a landmark dispute over whether search result delistings should apply worldwide.
Europe passed the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling in 2014, which ordered search engines like Google to allow private citizens in Europe to request the removal of incorrect, outdated, or privacy-violating URLs from search results on their names.
Critics expressed dismay over the ruling for carrying undertones of censorship and a rewriting of history. Still, Google honored the ruling and began the muddy work of setting up a process for reviewing and approving delisting requests. In their transparency reports, Google claims to have removed almost 780,000 links over the last few years while rejecting more than half of all requests for not meeting the policy’s criteria.
But the search engine giant only went as far as delisting results from the requester’s home country as opposed to global domains like Google.com. This means if a French citizen requests to have results delisted, Google will take them off Google.fr but internet users in Germany will still find those results when searching on Google.com.
“For the last 18 months, we’ve been defending the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that it chooses, not in the way that another country chooses. We’re doing this because we want to ensure that people have access to content that is legal in their country. We look forward to making our case at the European Court of Justice.”
French data protection agency, CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés), argued delistings need to apply globally or else the entire point of protecting a citizen’s privacy is made moot. And in May last year, the agency fined Google €100,000 for non-compliance. Google since filed an appeal and the case is now escalating to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to make a final judgement on just how far the ‘right to be forgotten’ can extend.
For their part, Google argues that while it will honor a country’s data privacy policies, it feels the CNIL’s push to have those delistings apply globally encroaches on other countries’ ability to protect freedom of expression.
“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe”, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said to the Guardian.