Right to be forgotten : Google must remove search results globally, or face big fines says French regulator

The French data regulator rejected Google’s appeal against the global enforcement of “right to be forgotten” removals, which is related to last year’s ruling wherein an European court said that citizens could request that links about them be taken down from search results.

Number of reasons for the rejection were provided by the President of the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France’s data protection authority that included the fact that European orders to de-list information from search results could be easily misled, if links were still available on Google’s other domains.

The CNIL had ordered Google in May to apply RTBF removals not only to the company’s European domains such as google.co.uk or google.fr, but to the search engine’s global domain google.com.

Google appealed the order in July, which has now been rejected by the CNIL. Google must now remove tens of thousands of search results from google.com and other global domains. The ruling also applies to other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo.

In a previous statement, Google had said that the ruling is “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.” However, rejecting this claim in a public statement, CNIL said that “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 has said that its processed more than a quarter of one million requests to delist more than one million links since the ruling, and has removed 41.6% of the URL requests it has processed so far.

The Index on Censorship has previously at the same time said that removing results from search engines was “akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books.” Also, many of the newspapers have reported that their articles have been removed from search results because of the European court’s new right.

After the ruling, Google reiterated its opposition to the legal decision. “As a matter of principle, we respectfully disagree with the idea that one national data protection authority can assert global authority to control the content that people can access around the world.”

According to The Guardian: “CNIL will likely begin to apply sanctions including the possibility of a fine in the region of €300,000 against Google, should the company refuse to comply with the order. Under incoming French regulation the fine could increase to between 2% and 5% of global operating costs.” Google’s total operating costs were just under $50 billion for 2014, so most likely the fine could be from $1 billion to $2.5 billion (€900 million to €2.2 billion).

As far as CNIL is concerned, Google must now comply with its order. “Otherwise, the President of the CNIL may designate a Rapporteur who may refer to the CNIL’s sanctions committee with a view of obtaining a ruling on this matter.” Those sanctions could be severe.

If Google is fined by CNIL in this way, the search engine could then go to the Conseil d’Etat, the supreme court for administrative justice, to appeal the decision and fine.

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