Sorry France, Google says "non" on privacy demands

Google has rejected France's calls for the "right to be forgotten" program to be applied worldwide, risking the wrath of the European Union in the process. The French data protection regulator, CNIL, had issued Google with a formal notice in June demanding that any links ousted from Google's European search sites under the program should also be delisted from indexes globally. That, Google argues, is a path with potentially dangerous implications.

Launched back in May 2014, the so-called "right to be forgotten" system was Google's attempt to satisfy European privacy laws.

Under the scheme, individuals living in Europe who had a reasonable claim that a listing about them in Google's search index was incorrect or outdated could petition its removal. It proved popular, too, seeing 12,000 requests in its first day.

Despite that, CNIL wasn't satisfied. It cited the original European Court ruling that links must be removed "on all extensions of the search engine and that the service provided by Google search constitutes a single processing," and gave Google fifteen days to cull links across every version of its search site.

Google is pushing back, however, and pointing to the fact that there's not an equivalent law in every country. Meanwhile, the search giant argues, one country's idea of what's illegal may well contrast strongly with that of another.

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."

Similarly, Google also points out that the vast majority of French internet users are to be found using its French-localized pages.

As such, so its argument goes, a global implementation of "right to be forgotten" would pretty much be overkill.

We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access. We also believe this order is disproportionate and unnecessary, given that the overwhelming majority of French internet users—currently around 97%—access a European version of Google's search engine like, rather than or any other version of Google.

All the same, Google may find itself with some strong opposition if it insists on holding its ground. CNIL isn't the only privacy regulator to have waded in, and the European Union said back in late 2014 that it believed the index edits should be applied globally.

SOURCE Google Policy Blog