Google said Thursday it would not comply with a French privacy regulator’s order to enact the “right to be forgotten” across non-European versions of the site.
In Europe, Google must remove search listings about individuals if they can prove the links reveal out-of-date or inflammatory content about them, under a European Union court ruling from last year.
European versions of the search engine -- such as Google.fr and Google.co.uk -- have since removed more than a million links. But the links still turn up on Google.com and other international versions.
Allowing France to dictate Google’s actions abroad would threaten freedom on the Internet, wrote Google’s Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer in a blog post.
“This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web,” Fleischer wrote. “We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access.”
Google has asked the regulator, the French Data Protection Authority, known by its French initials as CNIL, to withdraw its order. The Mountain View company risks government penalties for not complying.
In arguing against the regulator, Google said that setting a global law from one country could eventually allow other countries with histories of censorship to stretch their legal arms abroad.
“Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be ‘gay propaganda,’” Fleischer wrote.
Google also pointed out that about 97% of French Internet users access European versions of the site.
But the CNIL said in its notice that the May 2014 order from the Court of Justice of the European Union intended Google to apply the “right to be forgotten” to all sites worldwide.
“In order to be effective, delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine,” it said. The CNIL said it would give Google 15 days to comply after sending a notice in mid-June, after which it would begin the process of imposing sanctions.
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