Right To Be Forgotten: Google Tells Europe It Won’t Scrub Global Index


European privacy regulators continue to push for an extension of The Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) to the entire Google index, globally. However Google for the time being has taken the position that it will not remove RTBF results from Google.com.

That was reiterated this week by David Drummond, the company’s Chief Legal Officer. He’s quoted by Reuters saying, “It’s our strong view that there needs to be some way of limiting the concept, because it is a European concept.”

Google is removing disputed links from the domestic versions of its search results in Europe. However many Europe privacy regulators have criticized this approach because Google’s “.com” results are immediately accessible to Europeans and thus appear to defeat the purpose of RTBF, which is to prevent disputed content from being discovered through search.

RTBF removal requests

Since the European Court of Justice first pronounced the RTBF in May 2014, in Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González, Google has received more than 200,000 requests from individuals in EU member states. That has resulted in the removal of almost 740,000 URLs to date.

In December European regulators issued a detailed list of criteria to be used by search engines in evaluating RTBF requests:

  1. Does the search result relate to a natural person – i.e. an individual? And does the search result come up against a search on the data subject’s name?
  2. Does the data subject play a role in public life? Is the data subject a public figure?
  3. Is the data subject a minor?
  4. Is the data accurate?
  5. Is the data relevant and not excessive?
  6. Is the information sensitive within the meaning of Article 8 of the Directive 95/46/EC?
  7. Is the data up to date? Is the data being made available for longer than is necessary for the purpose of the processing?
  8. Is the data processing causing prejudice to the data subject? Does the data have a disproportionately negative privacy impact on the data subject?
  9. Does the search result link to information that puts the data subject at risk?
  10. In what context was the information published?
  11. Was the original content published in the context of journalistic purposes?
  12. Does the publisher of the data have a legal power – or a legal obligation– to make the personal data publicly available?
  13. Does the data relate to a criminal offence?

To scrub the full Google index of RTBF removals would be to extend EU privacy rules to the entire globe. However the balance and legal standards governing privacy and speech is different around the globe.

This presents a difficult conflict of laws challenge that has always been present with the internet but is highlighted with this issue.

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