Google wins landmark right ‘to be forgotten’ case

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Europe’s top court has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally.

This means that the firm only needs to remove links to sensitive personal data in Europe and not elsewhere

The ruling stems from a dispute between Google and a French privacy regulator.

In 2016, France’s privacy watchdog CNIL fined Google 100,000 euros ($109,790) for refusing to delist sensitive information from internet search results globally upon request in what is called the “right to be forgotten”.

Google took its fight to the French Council of State which subsequently sought advice from the European Court of Justice (CJEU).

The following year, Google introduced a geoblocking feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links. But it resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world.

Google had argued that the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses were it to be applied outside of Europe.

“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 ruling said.

Google has applied the right to be forgotten since May 2014. The idea is to hide sensitive information – such the fact a person once committed a criminal offence or had an extra-marital affair – if the details are judged to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive”.

The firm said since that time it has received more than 845,000 requests to remove a total of 3.3 million web addresses, with about 45% of the links ultimately getting delisted.

This involves both removing the results from its European sites – such as Google.fr, Google.co.uk and Google.de – as well as restricting results from its other sites – such as Google.com – if it detects a search is being carried out from within Europe.




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