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Memory hole: Google battles back against France over right to be forgotten

right to be forgotten goes frances highest court french gov

The Palais-Royal, home of the Conseil d'État.

Google is taking its dispute with French authorities over the “right to be forgotten” to the country’s equivalent to the Supreme Court, the Conseil d’État. The company is appealing a decision made by France’s data protection authority that could prompt major changes to the way search results are delivered to users.

In 2014, the top European court ruled that Google was required to remove listings that were irrelevant, inadequate, or outdated, if a member of the public made a request for the company to do so. This action was intended to allow individuals to make unwanted online materials pertaining to them less accessible to others.

Google complied, and since March the company has delisted about 600,000 results in response to user requests, according to a report from The Guardian. However, last July the French data privacy regulatory board CNIL determined that these measures weren’t enough, and expanded the requirements that Google is subject to.

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Delisted results are currently enforced across the European Union, meaning that someone in Great Britain couldn’t access content censored from France, regardless of which regional version of the search engine he or she was using. CNIL wants to make these restrictions apply worldwide, rather than just spanning the EU.

Google flatly rejected these requests, sparking a legal dispute that has now raged for ten months. The company’s counter-argument hinges around the idea that if France can apply its legislation on a global scale, other countries are sure to do the same to protect their own interests — and those nations might be willing to abuse that power.

Taking this issue to the Conseil d’État means that it will be addressed with some finality, one way or the other. If the court decides to uphold the ruling, Google will be forced to comply with the restrictions on its search results worldwide, or leave France altogether.