Google protests global ‘right to be forgotten’

Google protests global ‘right to be forgotten’
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Google is pushing back on French regulators who have mandated that the search-engine giant extend the so-called “right to be forgotten” to the entire globe. 

Google said Thursday that removing search listings from its platforms in the United States and from other countries, due to a European court decision, would have a chilling effect on the Internet, and would set a worrisome precedent. 

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“If the [French regulator’s] proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least-free place,” said Google’s Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer. 

Google has formally asked the French IT regulator, known as CNIL, to withdraw last month’s demand that Google expand the right to be forgotten to all domain listings — rather than just the .fr, .uk and others in European domains that Google currently scrubs. 

“While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally. Moreover, there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others,” Google said, citing censorship laws in Thailand, Turkey and Russia. 

Since last year, Europeans have been able to petition search engines like Google or Yahoo to remove links about them when the page contains inaccurate, irrelevant or excessive information about people. So far, Google has removed about 370,000 URLs and evaluated more than 1 million pages. 

Wiping the link from search engines does not remove the actual web page from the Internet, and Google currently only extends that kind of scrubbing to Europe-specific domains, but not the standard Google.com that is used in the United States. 

Google argued that 97 percent of French Internet users use google.fr, so it would be largely unnecessary to extend the delisting globally. 

French regulators last month gave Google 15 days to comply and then vowed to begin drafting sanctions against the company. 

“We have worked hard to strike the right balance in our implementation of the European Court’s ruling and have maintained a collaborative dialogue with the CNIL and other data protection authorities, who agree with our decisions in the majority of cases referred to them,” Google said. “We are committed to continuing to work with regulators in this open and transparent way.”