Open Government

Google Fighting New Right To Be Forgotten Proposal

A French commission believes delisting from Google search engines should be carried out across all versions of the search engine. Unsurprisingly, Google disagrees.
Citizen Data Scientists: 7 Ways To Harness Talent
Citizen Data Scientists: 7 Ways To Harness Talent
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In response to a formal request sent to Google in June by France's Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), which ordered the search giant to apply delisting on all domain names of the search engine, the search engine giant has asked CNIL to withdraw the notice.

The right to be forgotten -- RTBF -- a concept discussed and put into practice in the European Union (EU) and Argentina since 2006, is a complicated notion involving the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and a sort of statute of limitations on the use, or misuse, of private information regarding past actions.

In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union announced its recognition of delisting, which grants any individual the right of removal of one or more results displayed following a search made on the basis of his or her name.

Following a request for removal, the search engine then reviews the request and grants it if the legal conditions are met.

Google argues that under the approach recently advanced by CNIL, the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place, and said it "respectfully disagrees" with the organization's assertion of global authority on this issue.

From CNIL's point of view, the current request stems from the hundreds of complaints it received following Google's refusals to carry out delisting on Internet links.

The CNIL also noted if Google does not comply with the formal notice within the fifteen days after its issuance, the president of the organization would be in position to draft a report recommending the committee in charge of violations of French data protection law to impose a sanction to the company.

According to Google's own transparency report, the company has received more than 250,000 individual requests concerning one million URLs in the past year, and has delisted from name search results just over 40% of the URLs that it has reviewed.

[Read about the problems with a lousy database.]

"While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, wrote on the company's Europe Blog on July 30. "Moreover, there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others. If the CNIL's proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place."

This is not the first time Google has been the subject of RTBF politics. In May, a group of 80 Internet academics challenged Google to be more forthcoming as to how it removes information about individuals from cyberspace.

The consortium implored the search giant to find a balance between individual privacy and public discourse interests, and claimed the public deserves to know how Google's standards for requests are developing.