France is demanding that the “right to oblivion” be global - what can it affect

    The French organization CNIL , which deals with the protection of personal data in the country, has demanded from Google to extend the “right to oblivion” to the whole world. The regulator wants links removed from the French version to be hidden in Google versions for other countries.

    The IT giant did not agree with this demand, because the dispute between Google and CNIL went to the courtroom of the European Union. Next, we understand the essence of the conflict.

    / photo Mounirzok CC

    What is the right to oblivion

    The right to oblivion has been in effect on the territory of the European Union since 2014. EU citizens can send Google a request to hide specific information from search results. The law allows you to hide incomplete, irrelevant or false information about a person.

    The GDPR, which entered into force in May of this year, expanded the understanding of the right to oblivion. Now EU citizens can request to remove links from search results if:

    • they object to their processing;
    • this information was obtained without their consent;
    • permission to process personal data has been revoked.

    The precedent for the adoption of the right to oblivion was a trial in 2009, when a certain Mario González discovered that Google’s search engine issued a notification of twenty years old, published by a Spanish newspaper, to a query by its name. The trial lasted five years, but then the court still sided with Gonzalez.

    Google considers each request individually. In total, from 2014 (from the moment of adoption of the law) to 2017, the company received 2.5 million requests for information deletion, with 89% of applications received from individuals, and not from public figures.

    Trial between Google and CNIL

    In 2016, CNIL demanded that Google remove links under the law on the right to oblivion, not only for the European versions of the search engine, but for the whole world. As a half-measure, the IT giant offered to hide links in all domains when searching from French IP addresses.

    CNIL found this solution insufficient: the national commission obliged Google to remove search results for countries outside the European Union. The American company did not agree with this demand and received a fine of 100 thousand euros.

    After that, Google filed a lawsuit against CNIL with the French State Council. The Council found it difficult to give an answer on the case, as it concerns international European law. Therefore, the lawsuit went to the highest judicial body of the EU - the Court of the European Union.

    The meeting passed - September 11th. It is expected that the decision will be made in early 2019.

    / photo Katarina Dzurekova CC

    Opinions and arguments of the parties

    CNIL's point of view

    CNIL insists that its claims against Google cannot be considered an attempt to apply French laws outside the country. Representatives of the organization say that they only demand "compliance with European laws by non-European companies offering their services in the EU."

    In the CNIL, it is noted that for the “full-fledged” fulfillment of the right to oblivion, it is necessary to remove data from the issuance results for all countries. Otherwise, EU citizens will still be able to access them if they use VPN services.

    Google view

    The company believes that European regulators should not define the "appearance" and content of sites for users around the world. The IT giant is also supported in this case by the human rights organization Article 19, which deals with issues of free access to information.

    Former Google General Counsel Daphne Keller (Daphne Keller) said that this case could be an occasion for other governments to influence the content of Internet platforms for the whole world. If the precedent is fixed, then it is not known how long it will take before other states come up with such requirements. Potentially, this approach may negatively affect freedom of speech on the Web.

    The Press Reporters Committee for Press Freedom (RCFP) also agreed with this opinion. The organization notedthat such an application of the concept of the right to oblivion is contrary to international law and violates people's freedoms.

    Likely outcome

    As we have said, the final decision of the court will be known only in a few months. But Daphne Keller said that Google’s chance of losing is pretty high. Earlier, the lawyer participated in a search engine case against a Canadian company, which required Google to remove links to confidential information about its activities for all versions of the site.

    A Canadian court ruled that the IT giant is obliged to hide the necessary information from the issuance. And although this case was later considered in a US court, which made the opposite decision, it had no effect on the original decision. Daphne believes that a similar situation could occur in the CNIL case.

    It is unclear what Google will do in case of defeat in court. When in the Wall Street Journal they tried to get any comment from the company representatives, they refused to cover this topic. It is likely that the decision in favor of CNIL will change the mechanisms of interaction between regulators of countries with online services and will affect the “quantity” of content presented on the Internet.

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