Insights & Analyses

Google, EU head to court over global enforcement of ‘right to be forgotten’ – One World Identity

September 10, 2018

Google this week will argue in court that EU online privacy laws should not be enforced globally — a showdown that could have major ramifications for the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

Note: Read OWI’s research, “Trust, Safety & Compliance: A Survivor’s Guide to GDPR-mageddon,” the definitive primer on privacy rules in the European Union.

The case has gone to court after France’s privacy regulator ruled in 2015 that Google must meet the EU’s requirements for all of its domains around the world, including in the U.S. The French regulator said, according to Fortune, that with Google’s current approach, users could bypass regional settings with services like a virtual private network in order to access content from other countries, where the right to be forgotten may not apply.

For its part, Google has argued that the policy could allow for individual censorship within countries to be applied globally.

The search giant says this could stifle free speech on the internet, and also potentially infringe on rights held by users elsewhere in the world. For example, applying French right to be forgotten enforcement in the U.S. could run afoul of American free speech protections.

The dispute stems back to a 2014 ruling from the EU Court of Justice, which created a right to be forgotten from search engines. Because of the ruling, users can request that a search engine such as Google remove certain information, such as personal information, from queries.

The law does, however, provide a protection for storing data that might be in the public interest, such as information about a politician.

While Google will argue its case before the EU court on Tuesday, a ruling is not expected until later this year.

OWI Insight: Google’s push back against the EU could result in a landmark decision regarding the data economy and how data protection laws apply across borders. The right to be forgotten law is particularly thorny, given that a right to access information is also a basic tenet of free speech. Given that Google is said to comply with French law for all users who are not accessing its services via a VPN, the search giant has a strong case — one that has been publicly backed by several freedom of speech and freedom of the press advocacy groups.