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Google rejects CNIL demand for global delisting

Posted by on July 31, 2015.

This is getting interesting. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, has rejected the French demand that Google delist ‘inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive, and not in the public interest’ links not just from European Google Search, but from global Google Search. Put very simplistically, CNIL is demanding the right to be forgotten from google.com as well as google.fr.

(More on the ‘delisting/censorship’ issue here: France and the global censorship of Google.)

It is interesting because CNIL has a point. The law says that under the relevant circumstances, European citizens can demand that links to old data be deleted from the search engines. CNIL says, how can that happen if people can still access the links via google.com?

But Fleischer has responded

As a matter of principle, therefore, we respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue and we have asked the CNIL to withdraw its Formal Notice.
Implementing a European, not global, right to be forgotten

And Fleischer too has a point:

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.

Both sides are right. But in this, Google is more right and CNIL is less right. It is a terrible thing to say, but in protecting the free internet there will be collateral damage to some innocent people along the way. One country cannot demand that information be removed from another country.

I hope that this face-off between Google (which is overlarge and in some ways over-obnoxious) and CNIL (which can sometimes be over-belligerent) can be resolved by negotiation. In serious cases, perhaps it would be better for European regulators to approach Google to see if, in the interests of natural justice, Google would limit access to these old links. But CNIL cannot and must not demand it.


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Submitted in: Expert Views, Kevin Townsend's opinions | Tags: , ,