France orders Google to apply ‘right to be forgotten’ globally

French data regulator – the CNIL – has given Google a time limit of 15 days to apply the ‘right to be forgotten’ to all of its Google domains, not just its European ones.

The order comes after the CNIL stated it received “hundreds” of complaints from French citizens who’d had their applications refused when the CNIL believes Google should have complied.

The Google Spain ruling – most commonly referred to as the ‘right to be forgotten’ – was introduced in May last year following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, allowing individuals to apply to Google to remove a search result for their name if it’s out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory.

Since the ruling, it’s beGoogle Privacylieved that Google has processed over a million requests to remove data. Google manually reviews each application and only around 41% are approved.

Currently, the ruling only applies in Europe, so if someone were to search on for example, the delisted content would still appear in the search results.

But the CNIL is pushing Google to make this apply worldwide, arguing “In order to be effective, delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine.”

This would mean that if a French citizen successfully applied to get a URL delisted, it wouldn’t show in any of Google’s search results across the globe.

Is this likely to happen?

The Google Spain ruling sparked a bit of controversy at the time amongst free speech activists, but ultimately it was accepted that a balance must be struck between free speech and an individual’s right to privacy.

In the US, where the right to free speech is considered fundamental, it’s likely that if the ‘right to be forgotten’ was implemented globally, there’d be outrage.

A spokesperson for Google has hinted that Google doesn’t intend to comply with the CNIL’s demands, stating that Google has “been working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court’s ruling, 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.”

Now it’s just a waiting game to see how Google responds before the 15 days are up, and what sanctions the search giant will face if it fails to meet the CNIL’s request as predicted.


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