Politicians say there is ‘no obligation’ for search engine to extend rules outside of Europe
Google will not have to extend the controversial “right to be forgotten” rules beyond Europe, following a landmark ruling by the EU’s top court.
The US search giant had faced resistance from French privacy regulator CNIL to remove links from search results both in Europe and globally, should it receive an appropriate request.
“Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject … to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine,” the European Court of Justice ruled.
Only EU member states will therefore be subject to the court’s 2014 ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online.
It said, however, that a search engine operator must put measures in place to discourage internet users from going outside the EU to find that information.
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The case pitting the US tech behemoth against France’s data privacy regulator highlights the need to balance data privacy and protection concerns against the public’s right to information. It also raises questions about how to enforce differing jurisdictions when it comes to the borderless internet.
The case stems from the EU court’s 2014 ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. That decision forced Google to delete links to outdated or embarrassing personal information that popped up in searches within the 28-nation bloc.
One year later, the French privacy watchdog wanted Google to remove results on all its search engines on request, and not just those appearing on European country sites like google.fr.
Now, the EU court said that such application to territories outside the EU was not legal. It said it was “not apparent” from the EU legal text “that it would have intended to impose on an operator, such as Google, a de-referencing obligation which also concerns the national versions of its search engine that do not correspond to the member states.”
Those who wanted to see such an extension argue that on the internet it is easy to switch from the national versions of the website to ones outside the EU – by switching from google.fr to google.com for example – to find the information that must be removed within the EU.
Since 2014, Google has received more than 845,000 requests to remove more than 3 million web addresses from its results. Around 45 per cent of “right to be forgotten” requests have been successful.
Additional reporting by agencies
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