France’s data protection watchdog has ordered Google to de-link outdated and irrelevant information from its Google.com domain within two weeks or face a fine, as the “right to be forgotten” issue once again comes to the fore.
Just over a year ago the European Court of Justice ruled that the search giant must remove links to a 10-year-old Spanish newspaper notice about a mortgage foreclosure against Costeja González, a 58-year-old Spaniard, because he successfully argued that the information was “outdated and irrelevant”.
However, the information was itself lawful and accurate.
Since then, the Chocolate Factory has been inundated with requests to “be forgotten” — just shy of 270,000 at the last count.
It has complied with those requests in around 41 per cent of cases. More than 55,000 requests came from France, and Google has de-linked in 47 per cent of cases.
But any de-linking is only for search results carried out on Google’s European domains — .uk, .fr, .de etc. The 'Google.com' domain is not affected because the search monster says it is not targeted at the EU in general.
However, French data protection authority CNIL isn’t buying that argument. In a statement released on Friday (in French), CNIL said “pursuant to the judgment of the ECJ, for delisting to be effective, it must involve all the extensions and the services offered via the search engine 'Google search'".
For its part, the search giant has been “working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court’s ruling and co-operating closely with data protection authorities. The ruling focused on services directed to European users, and that's the approach we are taking in complying with it,” said spokesman Al Verney.
CNIL said it was making public its request for Google to comply with the de-linking order so that internet users may be informed. If Google complies in 15 days, CNIL said it will also advertise that fact.
The so-called “right to be forgotten” (PDF, EU factsheet) also applies to other search engines, but Google has borne the brunt of such requests as the largest search engine in Europe.
The issue of how it makes its decisions to grant or deny such requests has also been controversial, with many data protection advocates calling for more transparency.
CNIL said it has received several hundred individual complaints from people who have been denied de-linking by Google.
“Following an examination of these claims, the CNIL has asked Google Inc. to proceed with delisting of several results,” said the watchdog.
Last October, a French court last month ordered Google to remove links to defamatory information (as distinct from the outdated or irrelevant info under the right to be forgotten) from its search results globally.
Up to now, most rulings have limited themselves to the local top level domain, in this case Google.fr.
However, the decision of the High Court in Paris was that this would be insufficient, as even in France users can search using the Google.com domain. No doubt this general principle informed CNIL’s thinking. ®