Google fights French ruling over 'right-to-be-forgotten' requests

Google has taken a fight against France’s privacy watchdog to the country’s highest administrative court, challenging a March decision to fine it €100,000 for failing to remove “right-to-be-forgotten” requests from global search results.

“As a matter of both law and principle, we disagree with this demand,” wrote Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice-president and general counsel in a blog post.

“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?”

CNIL, the French data protection commission, levied the fine on Google in March after a tussle that started with a 15-day ultimatum last year for the company to comply with the order.

The French probe was triggered by several complaints from people who wanted the search engine to delete search results that pointed to personal information about them.

While Google removed links from its French “.fr” domain, it didn’t take them off the “.com” domain visible to European web users.

The EU’s highest court, in a precedent-setting ruling in May 2014, created a right to be forgotten — allowing people to seek the deletion of links on search engines if the information was outdated or irrelevant.

The case provoked a furore, with Google creating a special panel to advise it on implementing the law. The group opposed applying the ruling beyond EU domains.

Mr Walker said Goggle complies with the court ruling “in every country in the EU”.

“Across Europe we’ve now reviewed nearly 1.5m web pages, delisting around 40%. In France alone, we’ve reviewed over 300,000 web pages, delisting nearly 50%,” he said.

Google in March said it would add geoblocking technology to make it harder for users to find information. CNIL has said it received “hundreds of complaints following Google’s refusals”.

The authority declined to comment on the appeal.


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