The European Court of Justice has been told that it would not be feasible or wise to compel companies such as Google to implement the Right to be forgotten outside is borders. Although the advice was non binding the court has almost always followed the advice of its senior advisors.
How we got here
So a few years back the EU (or some part of it, the EU is a complex Supranational government) decided to give its people the right to be forgotten. On the surface of it the right sounds very innocuous: It says individuals have a right to be forgotten whereby they can request websites remove information about themselves from that site.
Again a cursory examination says this makes sense. Let’s say for example you were stupid enough to make a sex tape and now its five years later and the thing is all over the internet. You would be within your rights to want that sex tape removed from all those sites. Generally there cannot be an arguments why you should not have it your way.
The thing is there are a lot of cases where things are not so clear cut. A man is convicted of fraud for example and the information finds itself on a news site. Does this person have a right to have that information removed ten years later? English laws and the laws of many countries says after a person has served their debt to society their conviction should be spent. Americans and others are not so forgiving.
Therein lies the problem. According to the French courts, not only does a person have a right to be forgotten in accordance with French laws, the world must follow French laws too and forget that person too. Back in 2015 they ordered Google to “forget” someone ( typically that involves censoring search results to remove this person).
Google dutifully complied and removed this information in search results but only in results from Google.fr/ French IP addresses. The French courts were not happy so Google extended the censorship to the entire EU. Which means when this guy was googled from the EU his information would not appear.
That still made the French courts unhappy?! They wanted the world to forget this guy. According to them Google should follow French law and censor their global results such that for example if someone were to google the guy from Zimbabwe their information would not appear. The French courts fined Google €100 000 because it did not remove information across national boundaries. Google appealed against the fine and apparently the EU needed four years to mull over this.
Now that is (the French stance) absolute nonsense. Not only would it be illegal for Google to do so ( for example America has free speech enshrined under the constitution) it would open a can of worms that would mess up the whole internet. If other countries can decide to have things removed what would prevent say the Zimbabwean government from ordering Google to remove certain things too.
Hellow! Is that Google? Yes we want you to remove all those Kupisa challenge videos from YouTube without failure. The ZRP is seized with this matter. Also remove that Wikipedia link to the Zimbabwean Coup. Who said it was a coup?
Fortunately, after almost four years of fighting Google seems to be on track to win the case. The EU’s own adviser to the European Court of Justice, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar told them searches carried out in nations outside the EU should not be affected by the “right to be forgotten”.
Like every sensible person out there he told the court that European data regulators should not be able to determine the search results that internet users around the world get to see. That should be common sense but in today’s world who knows how this turns out? Hopefully Google will win this.
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