Search engine’s attempt to block French order to apply delistings to its google.com domain, not just its European sites, dismissed in ground-breaking case
Google’s appeal against the global enforcement of “right to be forgotten” removals has been rejected by the French data regulator.
The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) ordered Google in May to apply RTBF removals not only to the company’s European domains such as google.co.uk or google.fr, but to the search engine’s global domain google.com.
Google filed an informal appeal in July against the order to the president of CNIL, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, claiming that it would impede the public’s right to information, was a form of censorship and “risks serious chilling effects on the web”.
Falque-Pierrotin has rejected the appeal, saying that once a delisting has been accepted under the RTBF ruling it must be applied across all extensions of the search engine and that not doing so allows the ruling to easily be circumvented.
CNIL said in a statement: “Contrary to what Google has stated, this decision does not show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially. It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.”
The rejection of the appeal means that Google now must comply with the order and remove the tens of thousands of delistings from its google.com and other non-European domains for named searches.
Google has no legal possibility to appeal the order at this stage under French law.
CNIL will likely begin to apply sanctions including the possibility of a fine in the region of €300,000 against Google, should the company refuse to comply with the order. Under incoming European regulation the fine could increase to between 2% and 5% of global operating costs.
Google can then appeal the decision and the fine with the supreme court for administrative justice the Conseil d’Etat.
A Google spokesman said: “We’ve worked hard to implement the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe, and we’ll continue to do so. But as a matter of principle, we respectfully disagree with the idea that one national data protection authority can assert global authority to control the content that people can access around the world.”
The order is breaking new ground in making the subsidiary, Google France, liable for the activities of its parent company – in this case Google Inc. Should the French regulator succeed, it is likely to have knock-on effects in the application of RTBF rulings.