France Rejects Google Stance on Scope of 'Right to be Forgotten'

The search giant must apply the mandate's requirements to all Google search domains or face sanctions in France, the country's data regulator says.

Google and Right to be Forgotten

France's chief data protection authority has rejected Google's appeal of an order that requires the company to apply the European Union's 'right to be forgotten' mandate to all of Google's search domains worldwide.

Google must either comply with the formal order or face potential sanctions, France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) said in a statement issued Sept. 21.

The statement did not elaborate on what those sanctions might be or how much time Google has to comply with the order before the threatened sanctions go into effect.

The CNIL in June had given Google 15 days to apply the delisting requirements of the right to be forgotten mandate worldwide. Google had appealed that order arguing that it amounted to censorship and would impede the right to information on the Internet.

The right to be forgotten mandate basically allows European Union residents to ask search engine providers like Google to remove links to search results that contain inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information about them.

Google has agreed to remove the links, but only with respect to search results that appear within the European Union. The company has said that it will not remove links to results in or any of Google's search domains outside the European Union. So while a link to a particular search request might not be visible to results that appear inside the European Union, the link would be visible to Internet users outside the European Union.

Google's position has infuriated data protection authorities in France and elsewhere in the EU. Many have said it goes against the spirit of the mandate and have been pushing Google to delist links from results across the company's search domains worldwide.

In rejecting Google's appeal of France's order requiring global delisting, the CNIL Monday raised several objections to the company's position on the issue.

For instance, by limiting the delisting only to some domains, Google makes it possible for people to find delisted results simply by using another extension, the CNIL said. A user in France, for example, would be able to find a delisted result simply by conducting the search using

"This would equate stripping away the efficiency of this right, and applying variable rights to individuals depending on the Internet user who queries the search engine and not on the data subject," the CNIL said.

The data protection authority also questioned Google's argument that delisting links from search results amounts to a form of censorship. Delisting does not delete information on the Internet, but merely prevents results from being displayed following a search using solely an individual's name, the CNIL noted.

"Thus, the information remains directly accessible on the source Website or through a search using other terms. For instance, it is impossible to delist an event," it noted.

Further, contrary to Google's claim, France's position on the issue does not amount to an extraterritorial application of the country's laws, the data protection authority said. "It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non-European players offering their services in Europe."

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The company confirmed receiving more than 318,000 requests for link removal since the European Union mandate went into effect in May 2014. So far, the company says it has evaluated more than 1.1 million URLs in response to those requests. About 42 percent of the URLs were removed after evaluation while the remaining 58 percent have not been removed.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.