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Google has to apply 'right to be forgotten' everywhere, says France

The French data protection authority has put Google on notice that the 'right to be forgotten' isn't just for Europe.

The French data watchdog has demanded that Google must remove search results from all its domains, not just the European ones, when granting a 'right to be forgotten' request.

The right to be forgotten was introduced following a ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2014. The ruling allowed individuals to request that search engines stop returning links to information that is out of date, excessive, or irrelevant when people search for their names.

Google has implemented the ruling on its European domains, but not elsewhere. That means if it grants a 'right to be forgotten' request, anyone searching for the name in question through any European version of Google - google.fr or google.co.uk - wouldn't see the link in question. However, performing the same search through Google.com would return the disputed link.

While the Article 29 Working Party, a grouping of Europe's data protection authorities, has previously said that it would like to see the right to be forgotten extended to all of Google's domains worldwide, Google has maintained that it should only apply to European domains.

Now, France's data protection authority, the CNIL, is making it clear that any delisting actions Google takes need to apply worldwide.

The authority said on Friday that it had received "hundreds of complaints" where Google had refused to grant a right to be forgotten request from a French citizen. "Following the assessment of the complaints, the CNIL has requested Google to carry out the delisting of several results. It was expressly requested that the delisting should be effective on the whole search engine, irrespective of the extension used (.fr; .uk; .com ...)," the watchdog said on Friday.

"The CNIL considers that in order to be effective, delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine and that the service provided by Google search constitutes a single processing," it added.

However, Google had only stopped returning the links for searches performed through its European properties, not for google.com or other international versions of Google.

CNIL has now issued a formal notice to Google, stipulating that within 15 days the search engine must begin the process of complying. If after 15 days it hasn't made any effort to meet the CNIL's request, the watchdog can ultimately recommend the company face sanctions.

Google declined to comment.

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