Google is currently appealing the French right to be forgotten (RTBF) law in France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État.
The French privacy regulators, CNIL, are EU’s data protection regulators, and they enforce privacy data laws across all Europe. In 2014, the court established that inaccurate or out-of-date data about people must be delisted. In fact, the right to be forgotten law is actually “the right to be delisted” law.
Search engines were being obligated to remove those links with unwanted information at a request, thus respecting people’s privacy.
Last years, the CNIL authority communicated Google that it ought to eliminate the listing of the undesirable information not only from European sites like Google.fr or Google.de but from domains all over the world, including “.com.”
After fighting for a while, Google gave up and said it would remove links from its domains, but only if the registered users were from European countries.
Deciding Google’s action was not enough, the CNIL fined Google with $112,000 in March.
In March, the CNIL wrote that only by applying “the right to be forgotten law” on all of the “search engine’s extensions, regardless of the extension used or the geographic origin of the person performing the search,” Google can adequately respect the right to privacy.
As a reaction, Google’ general counsel, Ken Walter said if the French data regulators decide that their law should apply globally, it shouldn’t take long for less democratic countries to demand the same thing and lead “to a global race to the bottom.”
He continues saying other governments have imposed similar laws on various grounds, but even if it had resulted in the blocking of their services, they have resisted. It justifies Google’s measure of taking the order to the Supreme Court.
It’s a case of contradiction between two equal rights enlisted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right to privacy (Article 12) and the freedom of expression (Article 19).
These rights must be balanced, but sometimes you have to put one before the other and prioritize, there’s no other way. In this particular case, Google seems to put the “loose” freedom of expression right before the “rigid” right of privacy; the two rights cannot apply at the same time in the same place.
It remains to be seen how Google will convince the French Supreme Court to vote for freedom of speech and eliminate CNIL’s “right to be forgotten” global order.
Image Source: Kremlin