Argument against Global ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Presented by Google

Google has presented its case to the against the French data protection agency, CNIL, regarding the GDPR ‘right to be forgotten’ to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Tuesday 11 September. The CJEU will now review the arguments that were made before producing a ruling on December 11.

The arguments first came up when a ruling was made by the CJEU in 2014 which stated that anyone with a link 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 fall in line with this ‘right to be forgotten’ despite battling against the introduction of the ruling. Google went as far as enlisting free speech advocates to support their case.

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

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

When the final ruling from the CJEU is issued, it will also affect other search engines, among them Bing and Yahoo. Search companies will have to make sure data 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 looking over two issues in relation to coming to their final decision. They are:

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

Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker revealed, in a blog post in 2017, that enforcing the right to be forgotten on a global scale is not in sync with the service that his company is trying to provide for all people. He remarked: “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 massive amount of support for the case against CNIL. A petition signed by 29 media organisations was handed in 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 issues, the petition stated that the signatories think that:

  • Millions of people use intervenors’ publications to help educate and inform themselves on key questions of public policy.
  • The CNIL has basically ‘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 sovereign states is likely to provoke retaliation, and disrupt the harmony and reciprocity of international law.