Major Victory for Google on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’
Google has won a landmark case on the ‘right to be forgotten’ with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling it will only extend to Europe and not beyond.
The ‘right to be forgotten’ – or the RTBF as it is known – was bestowed in 2014 giving online users worldwide the right to request for search engines to delete personal online data which was out of date, incorrect or inflammatory – the content stays online but it cannot be found on search engines by using the individual’s name.
Since the initial rule was introduced five years ago, Google says it has received 845,501 RTBF requests, resulting in the removal of 45% of the 3.3 million links mentioned in the requests.
In 2015, the data protection agency in France (CNIL) ordered Google to remove search engine results containing damaging or false information about a person. Google failed to comply and the two parties have been battling it out in court ever since.
The ECJ has now ruled that the RTBF will only reach as far as Europe and the 28 countries within it, meaning Google and other search engines have no obligation to extend it worldwide – which is “a victory for global freedom of expression”, say Privacy campaigners.
Although the new ruling may stop information appearing on EU versions of search engines, internet users could find that same piece of information on non-EU versions of the webpage. However, search engines must ‘effectively prevent or, at the very least, seriously discourage’ users from doing this, say the ECJ.
“The balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world,” a statement from the court said.
While Google acknowledged the RTBF is an important tool, expanding it globally would impinge on freedom of speech.
“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy.
“It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments, and we’re grateful to the independent human-rights organisations, media associations, and many others around the world who also presented their views to the court,” says the senior privacy counsel at Google, Peter Fleischer.