Google has won a landmark case in its fight against EU regulators over ‘right to be forgotten’ requests. This means that Google now only needs to remove links from Search in Europe — and not elsewhere.
The entire case came into the public eye after CNIL — a French privacy regulator — ordered Google to remove any Search listings linking to pages that contained false or defamatory information about a particular individual (via The BBC).
Following this, Google implemented geoblocking features that would stop those in Europe from being able to see these ‘delisted’ links within Search results. Naturally, Google did not impose the same blocks for those outside EU member state borders.
This led to CNIL seeking a €100,000 fine (approx $109,901) from Google over the inclusion in global searches. But a European Court has ruled that Google is under no obligation to censor all versions of its search engine results.
“Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject… to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine,” the European Court of Justice ruling said.
Google’s defense in this EU case argued that blocking certain results from Search using the ‘right to be forgotten’ model could be used to cover up things like human rights abuses and government scandals.
In a statement, Google said:
“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy.”
“It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments.”
Google already applies the right to be forgotten and has done so for EU citizens since May 2014, when the European Courts of Justice first ruled that under certain circumstances European citizens could force search firms — like Google — to omit webpages from Search that contained sensitive information about them when queries were made using their names and data.
This move helps hide or omit any sensitive or potentially damaging information about an individual. Things like criminal records and extra-marital affairs are covered so long as the details are found to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive”.
Had the ECJ ruled against Google, this could have led to individuals and even enterprises being able to remove certain data from online search results outside of the EU, therefore censoring the web.
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