The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has been delegated with the task to inform people of the rights that the data protection legislation allows them. The CNIL uses its authority to investigate complaints and monitor the security of information systems. This is accomplished by checking that all precautions are taken to prevent the data from being distorted or disclosed to unauthorized parties.
The right to be forgotten is a concept that has been discussed at some length and has actually been put into practice in the European Union (EU). Last year in May, the European Court of Justice became the first legal body to take this issue beyond the concept phase by ruling that search engine companies such as Google (News - Alert) must remove links to posts about citizens of the European Union who request it if they are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” The CNIL ordered Google to apply right to be forgotten removals to the search engine’s global domain google.com.
Earlier this year, Google filed an informal appeal to discard the European Court of Justice’s ruling stating the impediment of the public’s right to information as it reasons, claiming that it was a form of censorship. Google also remarked that it does not believe the French regulator has the authority to expand the scope of the rule to a global level.
According to a Google spokesperson, “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.”
Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who is the president of CNIL, has rejected Google’s appeal. The reasoning behind this decision rests on the fact that once a delisting has been accepted under the right to be forgotten ruling it must be applied across all extensions of the search engine and that not doing so allows the ruling to easily be circumvented.
As of now, it seems that the argument from both sides is an attempt to set a precedent. Google’s feeling is that applying the right beyond Europe could have the effect of opening the door to more authoritarian governments attempting to apply Internet censorship rules beyond their borders.
In any event, the CNIL can only levy a fine of up to $170,000, which is really a small penalty for a company like Google. With respect to this week’s rejection of Google’s appeal, the CNIL remarked that it wasn’t seeking extraterritorial application of the law, but simply application of European law by companies doing business in Europe.
The ruling is attempting to prevent people from searching Google’s non-European sites to find private information that people wanted removed. It is a side step that, in effect makes the ruling ineffectual. I am sure that this will not be the last that we hear about this issue as it does have global implications.