Google in legal battle with European Union over 'right to be forgotten'

Elias Hubbard
September 13, 2018

For example, applying French right to be forgotten enforcement in the USA could run afoul of American free speech protections. Because of the ruling, users can request that a search engine such as Google remove certain information, such as personal information, from queries. It said by not doing so, Google isn't respecting citizens' right to privacy.

It's a comparatively new idea, but a landmark ruling in 2014 from the European Court of Justice set the initial parameters of how it might apply.

For its part, Google has argued that the policy could allow for individual censorship within countries to be applied globally.

Microsoft and groups like the Internet Freedom Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation intervened in Tuesday's hearing, as well as legal representatives for France, Ireland, Greece, Austria and Poland.

The right to be forgotten became law in 2014, following the case of Spaniard Mario Costeja who successfully argued that out-of-date details about his financial circumstances should be removed from Google.

The court ruled in his favour, saying material that was "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" should be delisted on request.

Google did not immediately respond to Sky's request for comment.

France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes wants the court to clarify whether the delisting should extend beyond the French version of Google's search engine to all versions across the world. But its main bone of contention is that Google isn't delisting the results everywhere.

Google said that applying European law to its non-European domains could lead other governments to demand the same treatment in order "to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world".

That ruling is at the center of a thorny battle between Google and France's data-protection agency, CNIL, which is arguing that the right to be forgotten should apply to search-engine results globally, not just within the EU.

Article 19, a coalition of worldwide human rights organisations aptly named after the free speech clause in the UN's universal declaration of human rights have called the plans "disproportionate".

Europe's top judges are expected to decide the limits of the "right to be forgotten" this week.

"If European regulators can tell Google to remove all references to a website, then it will be only a matter of time before countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia start to do the same", said Hughes.

The law does, however, provide a protection for storing data that might be in the public interest, such as information about a politician.

In terms of what the cases could mean for British citizens, the United Kingdom is now still subject to rulings from the ECJ but its legal relationship could change once it leaves the European Union in March 2019.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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