Google 'right to be forgotten' case goes to top EU court

France's highest administrative court has asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to consider whether Google must delist certain search results globally.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), the EU's top court, is taking on the matter of whether Google must comply with Europe's "right to be forgotten" policy on a global scale. France's top administrative court, the Council of State, referred the case to the ECJ on Wednesday.

Google has worked with European authorities on implementing the policy since 2014, when the ECJ ruled that Europeans can ask any search engine to remove some results returned from a search for the person's name.

Initially, however, Google only scrubbed results from its European websites, arguing it would set a dangerous precedent to interfere with the search results in countries with different laws. France's data-protection authority, the CNIL, subsequently told Google that once it accepts a delisting, it must remove results from all domains, including those outside Europe and Google.com.

Google attempted to appease regulators in early 2016, when it began scrubbing listings -- across all of its domains -- from searches conducted in the country from which the delisting request originated.

The CNIL nevertheless imposed a fine of 100,000 euros on Google last year, prompting Google to appeal to the Council of State. Now, the issue rests with the ECJ.

"Since 2014, we've worked hard to implement the 'right to be forgotten' ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe," said Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, in a statement to Reuters. "We've been defending the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that it chooses, not in the way that another country chooses."

The development follows a ruling in a similar case in Canada, where the nation's top court ruled against Google: Last month, Canada's Supreme Court upheld a ruling ordering Google to de-index a company's website globally. The ruling elicited concern among freedom of speech advocates about its global implications.

While the EU case is pending, Google is taking other steps to comply with Europe's more stringent privacy laws. Last week, when it opened a new Google Cloud Platform region in London, the company confirmed its commitment to EU data protection requirements, including the right to be forgotten.

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