Google’s fight over the right to be forgotten is headed back to the European Union’s top court, three years after the tribunal ordered the company to strip out results from its search engine.
France’s Conseil d’Etat, the country’s highest administrative court, called on the EU’s Court of Justice to decide whether links should be purged from internet searchers in one country, across the EU or outside Europe.
The search engine currently removes links in all European versions of Google if a person can show the information that comes up on a search for his or her name is outdated or irrelevant. France's privacy watchdog was pushing Google to remove results from google.com as well as the local google.fr website.
The freedom of the internet is at stake, according to Google, which claims the French view might allow governments force worldwide removal of content that’s illegal in their countries. France’s CNIL data-protection authority argues that failing to remove links from Google.com creates an “absurd” situation where data is available globally that can’t be shown in Europe to protect a person’s privacy.
The battle goes back to a 2014 ruling from the EU Court of Justice that backed privacy rights over publication, telling Google it had to remove links to personal information. Google must now weigh requests to withdraw links from its search engine as courts continue to refine what rules it should apply. EU judges were asked by the same French court earlier this year to rule on how to apply the right to be forgotten requests in internet searches.
Google has pulled more than two million web links from web searches after getting some 580,000 requests. It said it refuses more than half of the requests if they don’t meet the criteria set by the EU court. A search engine can only continue to display certain results where there’s a public interest in doing so, it said on the website.
Google's privacy lawyer Peter Fleischer said the company looked forward to making its case at the EU court.
“For the last 18 months, 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,” Mr Fleischer said in an email.