Top European court judges will decide whether Europe’s ‘Right to be Forgotten‘ can be implemented globally or not. Court of Justice of the European Union on 13 May 2014 ruled that data which is “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” is incompatible with the provisions of article 6(1)(e) to (f) of the Data Protection Directive and the related information and links in the list of results must be erased — a ruling that is commonly referred to as the ‘Right to be Forgotten‘. By this judgement, Google cannot actually ask websites to erase the information but can only delist the URLs from the search results.
Right to be Forgotten: France vs. Google
Since the ruling, the territorial scope of the delisting is highly debated. In 2015, Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the data privacy watchdog of France told Google that it was not enough to remove a link about a French citizen from the French version of the site, google.fr, alone nor even from other EU versions such as the Spain google.es but from all versions available in any part of the world.
CNIL argues that people in France can access Google.com or regional versions like Google.co.in using VPNs and such access to information violates the ‘Right to be Forgotten‘. In 2016, the regulator imposed a financial penalty on Google, for noncompliance with its directions. Google approached France’s supreme administrative court, which referred the case up to the Court of Justice of the European Union last year. Google is joined by 70 civil societies in this fight against the global imposition of ‘Right to be Forgotten.’
Right to be Forgotten: Global Imposition?
A ruling in the favour of CNIL implies Europe can dictate what users can see in countries like India, Singapore, America, Brazil or any other part of the world. Google argues for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them.
In a blog post, Kent Walker – SVP and General Counsel of Google argued that no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of another country, especially when it comes to linking to lawful content. Adopting such a rule would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world.
Executive Director of London based human rights organisation ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:
“This case could see the right to be forgotten threatening global free speech. European data regulators should not be allowed to decide what Internet users around the world find when they use a search engine. The CJEU must limit the scope of the right to be forgotten in order to protect the right of Internet users around the world to access information online.”
In another related case, four individuals argued that European law protects sensitive personal data; sensitive personal data includes information about your political beliefs or your criminal record; so all mentions of criminality or political affiliation should automatically be purged from search results, without any consideration of public interest.
Since the 2014 judgement to till date, Google handled requests to delist nearly two million search results in Europe, removing more than 800,000 of them. Google considers public interest aspect before deciding on a delisting request.