Google has denied a French watchdog group's request to expand its "right to be forgotten" program to non-European URLs.
In May 2014, the highest EU court ruled that, if requested, Google must consider removing links to certain information in its search results. But the Web giant scrubs only those URLs that show up on searches made from the European versions; someone searching Google.co.uk could siwtch to Google.com for uncensored results.
Last month, France's Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL)put pressure on Google to delist links on all its sites, including Google.com. CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin gave the tech titan 15 days to comply, before recommending that the CNIL Select Committee impose a sanction on Google.
Not surprisingly, Google has rejected CNIL's demand, calling it "a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the Web."
In a blog post, Google's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer explained that, while the right to be forgotten is the law in Europe, it does not apply globally. And it should not, as some content could be declared legal in one country but illegal in another. Russia, for example, outlaws speech deemed to be "gay propaganda"; Thailand criminalizes speech critical of its king.
"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," Fleischer said. "In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place."
"We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access," he added.
Not everything makes the cut, of course. But when an appeal meets the criteria—information is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, excessive, not in the public interest—the company will remove it from search results from all European versions.
Including France's google.fr, which a majority of French Web users (about 97 percent) use on a regular basis, rather than Google.com or any other variant.
"We have worked hard to strike the right balance in our implementation of the European Court's ruling and have maintained a collaborative dialogue with the CNIL and other data protection authorities, who agree with our decisions in the majority of cases referred to them," Fleischer wrote. "We are committed to continuing to work with regulators in this open and transparent way."
Google is not wiping content from the Web; it's only stopping it from showing up in search results. Technically, the ruling applies to all search engines, including Microsoft Bing, but as the most popular search engine, and the focus of the initial lawsuit that led to the ruling, Google has received most of the press.
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