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24th Jan 2021

EU regulators want right-to-be forgotten to go global

Demands by EU citizens for their names to no longer appear in a search engine result following a right-to-be forgotten request could be extended worldwide.

“From the legal and technical analysis we have been doing, it should include the dot coms. That is all that we are saying,” the head of the EU’s main privacy regulatory body, the article 29 working party, Isabelle Falque-Pirrotin, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (26 November).

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  • Google has received some 174,226 requests to have links removed since the Court’s ruling (Photo: Trey Ratcliff)

It means Google, for instance, would also have to de-list any link from its main Google.com site in the US and not just from its European-based affiliates like Google.co.uk or others.

The data regulators oppose limiting de-listing to EU domains. They say imposing a geographic border cannot guarantee rights to privacy would be respected.

Google chief Eric Schmidt has earlier said such rights should only be applied to domains based inside the EU.

It follows a European Court of Justice decision over the summer.

The Luxembourg-based court concluded it was reasonable to ask Google to amend searches based on a person’s name if the data is irrelevant, out of date, inaccurate, or an invasion of privacy.

Original content is not removed or altered in any way and can still be found using any other search query.

“It is important to repeat this because even five months after the decision of the court, there are still people thinking that the content has been deleted,” said Falque-Pirrotin.

As of Tuesday, the Internet giant has received some 174,226 requests to have links removed since the Court’s ruling.

The requests total 602,479 urls. Of those, some 41.5 percent have been de-listed or the equivalent of 208,520 links.

Most of the requests are from France (34,632), followed by Germany (29,528), and the UK (22,467).

Falque-Pirrotin’s announcement is part of a larger set of 13 guidelines for the search engines to follow on how to properly apply the ruling.

The guidelines are non-binding and may evolve over time.

The rules are designed to create a uniform application of the Court’s judgment and were adopted by the article 29 working party, composed of national data protection authorities, also on Wednesday.

The complete list is set for publication by the end of the week at the latest.

The regulators met twice with Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Qwant to discuss the guidelines.

They also want greater transparency on the decisions by the search engines on the requests in terms of providing more statistics and reports.

The overall demands by the regulators may increase tensions from the firms who contest the Court’s ruling in the first place.

Critics say it oversteps the right to the freedom of expression. Advocates say it puts in place rules needed to ensure people’s privacy is respected.

Google, for its part, is also facing pressure from anti-trust regulators in Brussels over its market dominance.

MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday are set to vote on a resolution on how tackle Internet dominance and monopolies.

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