Privacy Law

Google will fight French bid to extend 'right to be forgotten' worldwide

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Google plans to appeal an order by France’s data protection agency that would extend the right to be forgotten to its search engine in all countries.

The order by the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, known as CNIL, “is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web,” Google says in a blog post. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and Legaltech News have stories.

Because of a decision last year by the European Court of Justice, Google is removing links upon request from European versions of Google search, provided that certain requirements are met. The decision was based on a 1995 data protection law.

CNIL’s order would require Google to remove links in such cases from versions of the search engine in other countries.

“While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally,” says the blog post by Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer. “Moreover, there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others: Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be ‘gay propaganda.’

“If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place.”

CNIL counters that there is no effectiveness to the right to be forgotten if it is applied only in Europe.

Google has asked CNIL to withdraw its order. If the agency denies the request, it could begin sanctions proceedings that could lead to an initial fine of up to $165,000, the Wall Street Journal says.

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