Google Clash Over Global Right to Be Forgotten Returns to Court

Google’s battle against French proponents of a worldwide “right to be forgotten” enters a decisive phase at the European Union’s top court, according to Bloomberg.

The case highlights the growing tensions between privacy, freedom of speech and state censorship. Ahead of a ruling later this year, an adviser at the EU Court of Justice will today deliver an opinion on whether the world’s most-used search engine can limit the geographical scope of the privacy right to EU-based searches.

Google has been fighting efforts led by France’s privacy watchdog to globalize the right to be forgotten after the EU court’s landmark ruling in 2014 forcing the search engine to remove links to information about a person on request if it’s outdated or irrelevant. The Alphabet unit currently removes such links EU-wide and since 2016 it also restricts access to such information on non-EU Google sites when accessed from the EU country where the person concerned by the information is located.

France’s Conseil d’Etat, the nation’s highest administrative court, sought the EU tribunal’s guidance in 2017 about whether the right to be forgotten could be extended beyond the EU. In a second case, it asked questions about the obligations of search engine operators when faced with delisting requests of links to sensitive data, such as sexual orientation, political, religious or philosophical opinions and criminal offenses, that “is embedded in a press article or when the content that relates to it is false or incomplete.”

The U.S. company has been asked to delete links to 2.9 million websites, after the EU court effectively put the search engine in charge of deciding what requests to accept. It has agreed to less than half of them. People unhappy with Google’s refusal to remove a link can turn to privacy regulators.

France’s data protection regulator, CNIL, started a probe into Google’s actions based on complaints and ended up slapping the search giant with a fine of 100,000 euros for failing to remove links from its global websites as well. The case ended up in France’s top administrative court, which in 2017 referred its questions to the Luxembourg-based EU judges.

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