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May 20, 2016

Google Appeals French ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Fine, Demands

Google is appealing an order from France’s data protection watchdog to remove ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ requests from all of the tech firm’s search engines.

Google today filed its appeal with France’s Council of State in response to the Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) slapping the firm with a $112,000 fine back in March for not taking its ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ delistings global.

The CNIL issued the fine after rejecting a proposed compromise from Google that would have seen the search engine firm filter search results based on the geographic origin of the person performing the search.

The CNIL, however, said Google’s proposal did not go far enough.

“The right to be delisted is derived from the right to privacy, which is a universally recognized fundamental right laid down in international human rights law,” the CNIL said in a March press release. “Only delisting on all of the search engine’s extensions, regardless of the extension used or the geographic origin of the person performing the search, can effectively uphold this right. The solution that consists in varying the respect for people’s rights on the basis of the geographic origin of those viewing the search results does not give people effective, full protection of their right to be delisted.”

Google global general counsel Kent Walker followed up his firm’s formal appeal with a blog post explaining Google’s take on the matter.

“We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate. But if French law applies globally, how long will it be until other countries – perhaps less open and democratic – start demanding that their laws regulating information likewise have global reach?” Walker wrote.

“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. For example, this could prevent French citizens from seeing content that is perfectly legal in France. This is not just a hypothetical concern. We have received demands from governments to remove content globally on various grounds — and we have resisted, even if that has sometimes led to the blocking of our services.”

The CNIL has not commented on Google’s appeal, but a Council of State spokeswoman told Reuters it would take “several months” to deal with the case.

Europe’s top court ruled in May 2014 that people have the “right to be forgotten” online forcing Google to comply with requests from “ordinary people” to remove outdated links and irrelevant information from its search engine.

Google, in June 2015, posted an online form that Europeans can fill out to request deletion of links. But that was not the end of the issue. EU privacy watchdogs drafted new rules for Google to follow in November 2014 demanding the search engine firm, when it receives a right to be forgotten request, remove the links from all Google search engines, not just its European search.

France in particular has been the proverbial thorn in Google’s side. The CNIL last summer ordered the company to extend the ‘right to be forgotten’ law to all of its search results rather than just those in Europe after receiving hundreds of complaints from people who had submitted right to be forgotten requests that were not completely delisted by Google — meaning, the offending info could still be found on Google’s U.S. Web search.

Google has been fighting the rules, saying European authorities do not have the right to govern its other search engines.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.