It’s been just over a year since the ridiculous and dangerous ruling in the EU that said that there was a form of a “right to be forgotten” for individuals who don’t like the Google results on their names. We’ve spent plenty of time discussing why this is such a bad ruling, so we won’t necessarily repeat them now. With no other recourse, Google began implementing it, but for Europe only. Since then, there’s been an ongoing push by some to say Google needs to enforce it globally, even in the US where such an interpretation of the law is clearly unconstitutional. Last July, soon after the initial ruling, there were rumblings that EU regulators wanted Google to expand the enforcement globally (and to stop telling publications that their links had been flushed down the memory hole). And, in December, the EU’s “data protection” group made a similar argument.
France’s privacy watchdog on Friday called on Google to apply a European data protection ruling to its global domains or face financial penalties.
French authorities are now increasing the pressure on the American company, saying that Google must apply the ruling across all of its domains in the next 15 days or face penalties including a one-off fine of up to 300,000 euros, or almost $340,000. Last year Google was fined €150,000 for failing to adhere to the country’s rules in a separate privacy case.
This, of course, comes right on the heels of the terrible Canadian ruling last week saying that Canadian courts can also censor the global internet.
The idea that courts in various countries now think that they have the right to determine what is “acceptable” for search engines to show in their results should frighten everyone. It will be interesting to see how far Google pushes back on these moves. While the classic response that many suggest whenever these issues show up is to say that Google should just stop working in those countries (and see how quickly citizens demand a fix), Google has generally avoided going that far. The few exceptions are much more narrowly tailored, such as when it shut down Google News in Spain after Spain passed a law requiring aggregators pay sites they link to.
What is still quite amazing is that supporters of such a “right to be forgotten” don’t seem to ever care to think through the consequences of what they’re advocating for. They all seem to think that deleting links to certain web pages is a no brainer that is obvious — and never even seem to acknowledge the dangers of having the ability to simply delete factual history. Still, it’s unclear what Google can do in this situation. If the company ignores the demand and France starts issuing fines, then what? Does Google pull its operations out of France (where it has many employees)? That would be a major step. But acceding to France’s demands that the global internet be subject to the whims of angry Europeans who want to hide true events from their past, should be a total non-starter as well.