The French data protection authorities have rejected Google’s informal appeal against a “right to be forgotten” order that will require Google to globally de-list a number of search results.
In May 2015, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France’s data protection authority, ordered Google to de-list a number of results on all of its domains, where previously they had only been de-listed on google.fr.
Google responded by filing an informal appeal, arguing that the CNIL decision “would impede the public’s right to information and would be a form of censorship”. A post on Google’s policy blog argued persuasively that the French authorities were imposing their law with extra-territorial effect.
While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally. 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: Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be “gay propaganda.”
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.
However, the President of the CNIL has now rejected Google’s appeal, while strenuously denying that this amounts to attempting to enforce French law globally.
Contrary to what Google has stated, this decision does not show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially. It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.
Google must now comply with the order or face a fine in the region of €300,000.
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