CNIL Order (France’s National Commission of Information and Liberties, June, 12 2015)
Google v. AEPD, Case C‑131/12, (Court of Justice of the European Union, May, 13 2014) (opinion hosted by CURIA)
Google has taken an affirmative step against expanding the right to be forgotten in a move that has been called a step against online censorship.
In a clash that pits users’ privacy rights against the West’s disdain for censorship, Google has decided that limiting internet censorship is more important, refusing to comply with a French regulator’s order to expand the right to be forgotten. On May 13, 2014, Europe’s top court ruled that Google had to honor the EU’s right to be forgotten. The right to be forgotten—also known as the right to delist—allows users to remove “irrelevant” or “inadequate” search results associated with their identities. While Google has been removing qualifying links from the European versions of its search engine (such as Google.fr), it refuses to remove those links from its international domains (such as Google.com, ranked by Alexa.com as the world’s most popular website).
In June 2015, the Commission Nationale de L’informatique et des Libertés (CNIL)—the French administrative body that regulates data privacy—ordered Google to begin removing qualifying links from all of Google’s domains worldwide. Google refused in an official blog post by its Global Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer. Fleischer called the CNIL order “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web,” and argues that, while the right to be forgotten is the law in Europe, it is not the law worldwide. Thus Google refuses to remove qualifying links from non-European domains, which it argues are not governed by Europe’s delisting laws.
The New York Times provides an overview of the clash between Google and French privacy regulators. Fortune offers additional commentary, calling Google’s move a “bold challenge to France” and a “dramatic gesture to oppose censorship of its search results.”