Did you think the right to be forgotten wouldn’t jump the pond from Europe to the United States? Think again. We all remember last year when a European Court ruled people could request search engines remove link if it went to information the user thought cast them in an unfair light.
Let’s revisit that case, and then the French case that could impact Google and other SERPs globally. The initial ruling, by the European Commission, determined that users could ask for individual pages to be ‘forgotten.’
The term here is loose. Forgotten in the sense the average user will not be able to see the information. It will not be deleted from the Internet. The adage of what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet still applies.
Each request would be routed through the search engines, and in the case of Europe, 90 percent of search traffic is via Google. It also left open the interpretation of whether the request would be limited to that country’s specific Google TLD extension (think Google France, Germany, etc.), or applied more broadly to the EU and beyond.
That was until a French court took the EU court’s ruling and decided to cross digital borders. If the link were to be removed from Google.fr, it should also be removed from Google.com, which the company maintains is distinctly American.
It all started with a single case. Dan Shefet, a Danish lawyer, living in Paris for 30 years wanted to clean up his online reputation against accusations of fraud and malpractice. He successfully petitioned Google to take down the links to the variety of allegations.
Google did so in 2013, but only through Google.fr. He took them back to court last year to have the links removed from every Google TLD extension. He won, but the case is heading for an appeal.
The company is explaining that to do so would make the Internet as free as the least free country on Earth. They have applied the ruling to Google domains in Europe but are refusing to comply with global domains such as Google.com.
France’s privacy regulator has already promised to levy financial penalties against the search giant. Google had until the end of July to comply or face a $330,000 fine for failing to adhere to data privacy regulations.
Referring to the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, hit back on the implications of such rulings.
“If the C.N.I.L.’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom.”
CNIL has said they will take two months to review Google’s statement before ruling, but couldn’t resist a bit of snark in their statement:
“We note that Google’s arguments are partly political. Those of C.N.I.L., in turn, were based strictly on legal reasoning.”
What does it mean for Google? It gets to battle it out in French courts while dealing with other countries such as Russia drafting their versions of the right to be forgotten.
Just call it what it is. The right to censor information. When has a government ever looked out for the best interest of its people?
Should there be a mechanism to protect people from malicious acts on the Internet? Definitely. But this broad of a law that can be interpreted countless ways? Yeah, I see this working out…
And Mr. Shefet? A reputation management company is cheaper than this. The bonus? Your name isn’t plastered next to the allegations you are fighting to hide. Damn man, it helps to google before you become the poster child of Internet censorship.