UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — In a landmark decision, Google won a European Court ruling Tuesday that Google is not required to apply the “right to forget” online to its search engines outside Europe.
The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that Google is not required to apply the “right to forget” online to its search engines outside Europe, in a landmark decision that represents a victory for the American group. The issue was deemed very important in determining whether European Internet rules should be applied outside the bloc’s boundaries.
The American giant stressed that it is not to delete the results provided by its search engine under European law to include the domain of “Google.com” or other sites outside the European Union.
The court ruled that while Google must withdraw links at the request of a regulatory body or court in an EU country from all copies of its European websites, the “right to forget” over the Internet stops there. “EU law” does not require Google’s search engine operators to “pull such links in all versions of their search engine,” the court said.
But she stressed that withdrawing links from European sites should include measures that “seriously discourage” the European Internet user from being able to circumvent the “forgotten right” by reaching unrestricted results via a search engine in a domain outside the EU.
This requires the imposition of a “geographic blocking”, which Google suggests is effectively being applied in Europe.
France sees a loophole
But it remains unclear whether the legal battle is over. The French data regulator, the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms, responded by saying that the provision does not explicitly prevent it from demanding the withdrawal of links on a global scale.
The body’s battle since 2014 to push Google to apply the “forgotten right” to all of its research domains has sparked the case that recently reached the European Court of Justice.
“Although EU law does not force the withdrawal of links globally, it also does not prevent this,” the National Informatics and Freedoms Committee said in a statement. “As a result, regulators and thus the National Commission for Information and Freedoms are authorized to require a search engine to remove links from the results of all copies of its engines, if justified and in certain cases, in order to guarantee the rights of the person concerned,” she said.
It also said it was up to the Supreme Court of France to decide whether Google’s “geo-blocking” technique was sufficient.
In 2016, the French authority imposed a fine of 100,000 euros ($ 110,000) on Google for failing to comply with its “right to forget” order in all its engines. It insists that pulling links should be applied to all domains to be effective.
Google appealed to France’s highest court, which in turn referred the case to the European Court of Justice, which ruled on Tuesday.
Google welcomes the verdict
The case before the European Court places the right of individuals to privacy online in exchange for free access to information.
If France wins, the divisions between Europe and the United States could deepen, with the headquarters of most Internet giants whose president, Donald Trump, have criticized what he called EU interference in US business.
Google commended the court’s decision. “It is good that the court agreed with our arguments,” company lawyer Peter Fleischer said in a statement, adding that Google had worked to “strike a logical balance between people’s right to information and privacy.”
The US company and shareholders have warned that authoritarian states outside Europe could use requests to withdraw links globally to cover up human rights abuses.
Google’s position in January reinforced a non-binding opinion by the chief adviser to the European Court, Attorney General Machi Spunar, who recommended that “the scope of the withdrawal of links that Internet search engine operators should implement is limited to the European Union.”
The case has been closely followed, particularly with the emergence of Europe as the global norm-setting body for data protection on the Internet.
In 2016, the general European data protection system it enacted, encompassing all EU citizens and residents, forced many Internet sites and companies around the world to comply.
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