France Wants “Right To Be Forgotten” Extended Worldwide


French data regulators have threatened to impose financial penalties if Google doesn’t remove controversial links from its search results worldwide. The demand goes a step further than the original “right to be forgotten” ruling.

The European Court of Justice last year ruled on a case relating to the balance between the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. It created a fundamental principle, to apply to the 28 member states of the European Union, that users can in some circumstances expect search engines to remove links to material that compromises their privacy, even if the publication of the material is inherently legal.

The ruling was somewhat vague about the precise implementation, but the general policy is that if somebody asks a website to remove material and doesn’t get a positive response, they can then make a formal request to search engine operators to remove the relevant links.

The search engine then has to make a decision on the case, taking into account factors such as how outdated the information is and whether the person is a public figure with less expectation of privacy. It can refuse the request, leaving the person the choice of  pursuing the matter in the relevant national court.

Google revealed last month that it removed the links in 41.3 percent of the cases it had dealt with so far. It generally agrees to remove links to extremely outdated negative articles or those which compromise privacy in a potentially harmful manner, but refuses to take down links involving serious criminal activity or the wrongdoings of public figures.

The current set-up doesn’t go far enough for French officials who believe it’s undermined by the fact that firms such as Google only delete the links from search results seen by European users. They’ve now demanded that any deleted links be removed from all Google results lists worldwide and say that if it fails to comply, it may impose a penalty. However, that would be restricted to €150,000 (approximately $168,000) which appears to be a one-off fine rather than one imposed for each incident.

Google told Reuters that ” The ruling focused on services directed to European users, and that’s the approach we are taking in complying with it.”

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