EU Court's Rules There is No “Right to be Forgotten”


The “right to be forgotten” will stop at the border.

The European Union’s top court ruled Tuesday that Google isn’t generally obligated to apply the “right to be forgotten” to versions of its search engine accessed outside the bloc while allowing flexibility for European regulators to order Google to do so in specific cases.

In 2015, France’s privacy regulator, CNIL, ordered Google to expand its takedowns to any search for the given individual’s name, regardless of where the searcher was located. CNIL argued that the right to be forgotten is empty if it can be dodged by spoofing one’s location, for instance by connecting to a VPN. The regulator later fined Google €100,000 ($110,000) when it didn’t comply.

Google appealed the order in a French court, which referred the question to the EU Court of Justice.

Until this decision, Google had been in a 4 year legal battle while it argued that expanding the right to be forgotten would infringe on other countries’ sovereignty and encourage dictators and tyrants to censor content beyond their countries’ borders.

“It’s good to see that the Court agreed with our arguments,” said Peter Fleischer, Google’s senior privacy counsel, adding that the company has sought to “strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy.”

If the Court had ruled the other way it would have caused a conflict between Europe and U.S.-based tech firms over how to balance the right to privacy vs. the right of free expression. On Tuesday, the court found that privacy “is not an absolute right” in the EU, and that in addition, many other countries “do not recognize the right to dereferencing or have a different approach to that right,” referring to the right to be forgotten.

This is a win for Google who is under scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the EU and U.S. Both are looking at Google as well as other firms including Amazon and Facebook regarding increasing what tech companies pay in taxes in countries where they operate.

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