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(European Union) Google Wins! Right to be Forgotten Not Extraterritorial Per EU Court of Justice

Jan Meisels Allen
 

 After two years of waiting, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled in favor of Google that the right to be forgotten is not extraterritorial—it applies only within the European Union. The Court said Europe could not impose the right to be forgotten on countries that do not recognize the law. “The balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world,” the Court said in its decision. Google and other search engines will have to take measures to “effectively prevent or at the very least, seriously discourage” users in the European Union from using other versions of its site to access removed content. The Court further said, “Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject... to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine.” It further ruled, EU law requires a search engine operator to carry out such a de-referencing on the versions of its search engine corresponding to all the member states.

 There were many friends of the court documents in support of Google’s case, including Microsoft, Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press and more.

Google stated upon learning of the Court’s ruling, “Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy. It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments.”

 In 2014, the Court of Justice ruled against Google in a case about a Spanish man after he failed to get the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 from a Catalan website. That case established the right to be forgotten. Since then Google says it has received 845,501 requests for “right to be forgotten” leading to 45 percent of the 3.3 million links being removed. Right to be forgotten only applied to search engine links, not the actual content.  Actual content may be difficult to find if one is not familiar with the sites, which is why search engines are so effective in helping the researcher find the appropriate links.

 The Court’s decision however, leaves open the possibility for France and other national governments within the EU to force Google to take down links globally in special cases judged necessary to protect an individual’s privacy.

 To read the EU Court of Justice press release see:

https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2019-09/cp190112en.pdf

The EU Court of Justice website crashed as a result of all the attempts to access the actual decision. There is a link to the case in aforementioned press release that I suggest you try tomorrow or later today as currently the site is still not working intermittently. This is the direct link for the judgement: https://tinyurl.com/y6rmbg3g

Original url:

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?docid=218105&mode=req&pageIndex=1&dir=&occ=first&part=1&text=&doclang=EN&cid=175

To read more see:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/24/technology/europe-google-right-to-be-forgotten.html

and

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/sep/24/victory-for-google-in-landmark-right-to-be-forgotten-case  

The decision is available in all EU supported languages. The above link is for English. Click the drop down box where it says language of the document for accessing all the supported languages.

 History

The case was brought after the French Data Privacy Regulator, CNIL  required Google to globally remove links to pages containing information about a person that they felt was damaging or false. Google introduced geo-blocking as a result, which stopped European users from being able to see delisted links but not for the other parts of the world.  CNIL argued that a regional application of the rule was worthless because people could still find the information if they were outside Europe. CNIL tried to impose a fine of 100,000 Euros, saying the geo-location did not go far enough and wanted the links removed globally. Google argued that if the rule were applied outside of Europe, the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses.

 To read the previous postings about Google and right to be forgotten,  go to the archives of the IAJGS Records Access Alert at:  http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/private/records-access-alerts/. You must be registered to access the archives. 

To register go to: http://lists.iajgs.org/mailman/listinfo/records-access-alerts  and follow the instructions to enter your email address, full name and which genealogical  organization with whom you are affiliated   You will receive an email response that you have to reply to or the subscription will not be finalized.

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee