Google appeals French order to censor Right-to-Be-Forgotten links globally

Google is taking its case to France's highest administrative court.

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Google is appealing the French data protection regulator’s (CNIL’s) decision that Google must remove/censor “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) URLs on a global basis. Previously, Google had sought to find a compromise and enforce RTBF in Europe but preserve the content in other markets with different rules and privacy standards.

CNIL did not accept that solution and asserted that to be effective, delisting had to be executed across all Google domains worldwide. Google did not fully comply, and ultimately, French authorities fined the company $112,000 for not removing RTBF links from its full index.

Now, Google has appealed the CNIL order to the Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court. In a blog post, Google explained its position:

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?  This order could lead to a global race to the bottom, harming access to information that is perfectly lawful to view in one’s own country. For example, this could prevent French citizens from seeing content that is perfectly legal in France. This is not just a hypothetical concern. We have received demands from governments to remove content globally on various grounds — and we have resisted, even if that has sometimes led to the blocking of our services.

It’s not clear what would happen if the Conseil d’État upheld CNIL’s decision. I’m not sure whether there’s another available appeal to the European Court of Justice.

According to third-party data, over the course of two years, Google has declined roughly 70 percent to 75 percent of RTBF requests.

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About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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