EU high court rules that its ‘right to be forgotten’ law applies only to European search results

EU high court rules that its ‘right to be forgotten’ law applies only to European search results
Digital sovereignty

The European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled against French data authorities in their effort to apply EU privacy standards to search engines in other parts of the world, according to Politico.

The EU’s 2014 “right to be forgotten” rule allows Europe’s residents to demand that certain links associated with their name are removed from search engines such as Google. France’s data protection authority, the CNIL, had argued that the requests must be enforced globally in order to effectively comply with the law and to ensure that the results don’t turn up in searches. 

Content remains online, but is “dereferenced” and removed from search results. The new ruling means the links will also still be available on non-EU versions of search engines. The court noted, however, that companies should “seriously discourage” users from seeking out the information this way. In 2016, Google instituted a geo-blocking feature to block European users from accessing other versions of its search engine. 

“The balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world,” the court said in a statement on its ruling.

In 2015, the French agency had fined Google €100,000 for failing to apply the requests globally. The company appealed the decision to the highest court in Europe.

In acknowledging the Tuesday ruling, the CNIL noted that even “if the court does not grant dereferencing a global reach, it does say that dereferencing should be done at EU-level, and not only in the country of residence of the plaintiff.”

In its argument, Google called for a balance between public interest and privacy concerns, and said the laws of one country should not be imposed on citizens of another. Google also argued that if the rule was applied globally, it could be abused by authoritarian governments aiming to limit access to information on human rights abuses. The company says it has removed 45 percent of the 3.3 million links requested by users in Europe.

Google’s senior privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, said in response to the ruling:

“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy. It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments.”

Photo by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay