Google makes Case Against Proposed Global Extension of GDPR ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Google stated its case against the CNIL (France’s data protection agency) in relation to the GDPR ‘right to be forgotten’ to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Tuesday 11 September. The CJEU will now deliberate on the arguments that were made before finally delivering a ruling on December 11 this year.

The arguments originally arose when a ruling was made by the CJEU in 2014 which stated that anyone with a connection to Europe could request search engines to delete links from online results if they infringed on an individual’s privacy rights. Since then Google and other search engines have had to adhere with this ‘right to be forgotten’ despite battling against the introduction of the ruling. The Internet giant went as far as bringing in free speech advocates to support their case.

Now, however, the French data protection agency CNIL has proposed making the ruling applicable globally, claiming that people could be harmed if damaging data can still be accessible outside the jurisdiction of the European Union.  Gwendal Le Grand, director of technology and innovation at the CNIL, said: “Once it’s accepted that something should be taken down, it should apply globally.”

On Tuesday Google made the case that it already deletes a significant amount of links from search results within Europe and does not believe it should apply this policy worldwide. Since the 2014 ruling, Google has had close to 723,000 requests and has agreed to remove the links in 44pc of the cases within the EU. The hearing is reported to have included 15 court judges and up to 70 stakeholders.

When the final ruling from the CJEU is made, it will also impact other search engines, including Bing and Yahoo. Search companies will have to ensure information is erased in Europe is it also erased everywhere if the legal body does not agree with the arguments that Google made this week.  EU judges are considering two issues in relation to coming to their final decision:

  1. If information should just be erased globally or just in Europe.
  2. Should certain sensitive information be deleted automatically or with a review/appeal process.

Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker wrote, in a blog post in 2017, that enforcing the right to be forgotten on a global scale is not in line with the service that his company is trying to provide for everyone. He said: “We’re speaking out because restricting access to lawful and valuable information is contrary to our mission as a company and keeps us from delivering the comprehensive search service that people expect of us.”

Google has received a considerable amount of support for the case against CNIL. A petition signed by 29 media organisations was submitted to the CJEU. These groups included among them BuzzFeed, Reuters, The New York Times, News Corp, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and Associated Press.

Among other things, the petition stated that the signatories believe that:

  • Millions of people rely on intervenors’ publications to help educate and inform themselves on vital questions of public policy.
  • The CNIL has ‘effectively imposed French privacy norms far beyond France’s borders in a manner that squarely violates the rights of intervenors, and the rights of intervenors’ readership, under both international law and national laws outside of France’.
  • Such intrusion into the domestic sphere of other nations is likely to provoke retaliation, and destabilize the harmony and reciprocity of international law.

You can read the full text of the petition here.