Saturday

4th Feb 2023

EU sides with Google in data protection case

The European Commission has said it backs Google's victory at the EU court against the French data protection watchdog CNIL, in a case allowing people to have their names removed from search engine results.

The tech giant support from the Brussels-executive followed a ruling on Tuesday (23 September) at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in a legal battle between the right to privacy and free speech.

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A European Commission spokesman told reporters in Brussels that the Luxembourg judgement was "in line with the position the European Commission took in this case."

That line means Google will not now be required to remove the names of people that appear in search engine results when queried from sites outside of the European Union, if it is so requested.

Google received more than 3m requests in Europe to delete links from search results since 2014, and complied with almost half of the demands.

But the French CNIL in 2015 told Google it had to delist the names worldwide. Google refused, resulting in a €100,000 fine and a case now settled by the EU's top court.

"The CNIL considered that if a link about an individual living in France was delisted, the information about him or her should not be accessible anymore, regardless of the country from which the search was carried out," the CNIL said, in a statement.

The CNIL, like all EU state data protection authorities, is tasked to ensure compliance of the EU data protection regulation, also known as GDPR.

But the Luxembourg judge disagreed, siding with Google along with the backing of the European Commission, when it comes to the so-called 'right to be forgotten'.

The right entitles people to ask search engine operators like Google to delist their names from search results.

'No comment'

The CNIL is part of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), a Brussels-based body in charge of ensuring the consistent application of EU data protection rules.

Asked by EUobserver to comment on the case, the chair of the EDPB declined.

The CNIL says it will now study the ruling over the next few days and then publish the results as a FAQ on its website.

It has also yet to respond when asked if it was surprised by the European Commission siding with Google in the case.

Patrick Breyer, a German MEP and member of the Pirate Party, also weighed in.

He said the blocking of search engine references to legal content is more of an issue of regulators imposing barriers on the internet.

"Internet users should avoid using Google anyway because it is spying on them in order to manipulate and exploit them commercially," he said.

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