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Google almost profits in Europe over “the right to be forgotten”

Google and other search engines should not be forced to apply the EU "right to forget beyond the limit", an…

Google and other search engines should not be forced to apply the EU “right to forget beyond the limit”, an advisor to the EU Supreme Court claimed Thursday.

The recommendation – if followed by the EU-based Luxembourg court – would be a great victory for Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., which for three years has fought for an order from France’s integrity regulator to apply the EU principle globally.

Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general secretary of the court, argued in Thursday’s inextricable opinion that if the EU ordered the content to be disposed of from websites accessed outside the EU, there was a danger that other jurisdictions would use their laws to block information from being available in the EU

There is a real risk of reducing freedom of expression to the lowest common denominator in Europe and in the world, “wrote Szpunar.

A final decision is expected in the coming months from the court, which is not obliged to follow an Advocate General’s opinion. but it often does. No further appeal is possible within the EU.

With the support of a number of free speech advocates, the technology community has argued that expanding territorial reach for the right to forget would conflict with other countries’ sovereignty and encourage dictators and tyrants to assert control over content published beyond the country’s borders, the EU executive arm also claimed in September that the law should not be expanded abroad.

In the question, it is the right, as determined by the court in 201

4, for EU residents to require the search engines to remove links that contain personal information – As a home address – from searches for their own names. During the 2014 decision, the search engines must balance these requests against the public’s right to associate the information in the link with that person, considering, for example, whether the person is a public person.

Since that decision, Google has removed 1.1 million links from search results in the EU. But they left the links intact for the same searches that were conducted outside Europe.

France’s confidentiality regulator, CNIL, commissioned in 2015 that Google extend its takedowns to any search for the specified individual, no matter where the searcher is. The CNIL argued that the right to forget is empty if it can be dodged by spoofing its location, for example by connecting to a VPN. The regulator later fined Google $ 100,000 ($ 115,000) when it did not match.

Google appealed the order to a French court referring the matter to the EU court.

Thursday’s opinion was not completely back Google. Mr Szpunar, the Advocate General, recommended expanding how Google applies the right to forget, so that it is applied uniformly across all Google sites in the EU.

So far, the search engine has removed results from searches for a person’s name from all European versions of the site and from outside the EU when accessed from the EU country where the person is located. Google says it does this because standards of migration vary from country to country within the EU.

But the Advocate General recommended that Google use the same geolocation technology to remove the results from all of Google’s websites when accessed from any EU country.

Write to Sam Schechner at [email protected]

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