While the debate over the ‘right to be forgotten’ intensifies at a global level, Google states that it maintains its position on the matter.
After the European Court of Justice ruled on May 13th, 2014 that Google is obliged to respect an individual’s right to privacy and request of delisting all links that would infringe on this right, Google stated that it would comply.
However, limitations were set in place. Google declared that it would delist all search queries results linking to one individual’s name from the European domains. However, it declined to do the same for non-European domains.
2015 brought a new challenge for the tech giant with regards to the right to be forgotten. France’s CNIL decision, dated May 21st, 2015 asks the company to delete this information from all of Google’s pages worldwide.
Peter Fleisher, Global Privacy Counsel at Google maintained in an online post that Google will not change its stance on the matter.
“No country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access”,
Google considers that it reached a good balance between the European strict and at times frustrating regulatory environment and what the company offers users worldwide. According to Google, users take to national Google domains for searches, rarely venturing on google.com.
As such, it believes it is the right thing to do to keep links related to individuals on other domains than the European ones. In acting otherwise, the company believes it would reach the threshold of infringing on a different right – that of freedom of speech.
France’s CNIL observed particularly this aspect. While Google promptly responded to delisting requests, meeting the right to be forgotten, it did so only with European domains. Google.com and other domains retain the data and links associated with it.
Following a formal request sent to Google on April 9th, 2015 asking for delisting from all domains in fifteen-day timeframe. As expected, Google remained unmoved in the company’s view. Currently, CNIL decided Google violates articles 38 and 40 of the French Data Protection Act.
Google appealed the decision. A final result is expected within two months. Privacy rights activists are welcoming CNIL’s decision.
On the other hand, free-speech watchdogs argue that:
“When we’re talking about a broadly scoped right to be forgotten that’s about altering the historical record or making information that was lawfully public no longer accessible to people, I don’t see a way to square that with a fundamental right to access to information,”
according to Emma Llansó at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a think tank that partly funded by tech corporations, including Google
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