Google Appeals France’s ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Order

The search engine argues that the demand could potentially set a dangerous international precedent

May 21, 2016 at 3:20 PM ET

Google on Thursday appealed to France’s highest court after the country’s data protection authority directed the company to remove some of its search results. The Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) last year ordered the search engine giant to comply with “right to be forgotten” rulings globally, but Google argued that such measures could potentially be misused by countries with weaker democratic institutions.

According to Reuters, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May 2014 ruled that people could request that search engines scrub “inadequate or irrelevant” information from search results that appear when a person’s name is entered. The ruling is referred to as the “right to be forgotten.” The company obeyed, but only removed results from its European sites such as (Germany) and (France). Google then took down results on all its domains in February when accessed from the country where a scrub request was issued. However, as the BBC reports, CNIL noted that it’s easy for Europeans to access international versions of Google and look up deleted search results.

As a result, CNIL in March fined Google 100,000 euros ($112,150) for not “delisting” on a wider scale. Google is now appealing the penalty. A spokeswoman for the Council of State told Reuters that the court hadn’t received a formal appeal, adding that the rest of the process would take “several months.”

“As a matter of both law and principle, we disagree with this demand,” Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker wrote in op-ed posted on its company blog and France’s Le Monde newspaper on Thursday. “We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate. But if French law applies globally, how long will it be until other countries—perhaps less open and democratic—start demanding that their laws regulating information likewise have global reach?”

Dave Price, senior product counsel at Google, reiterated that such laws are only relevant in the countries that passed them. “One nation does not make laws for another,” he told Reuters. “Data protection law, in France and around Europe, is explicitly territorial, that is limited to the territory of the country whose law is being applied.”

According to Google’s Transparency Report, the site has removed 43 percent of links requested for removal.