Should Europe’s Search Law Apply To The World?

Late last year, EU regulators in Brussels said they wanted the controversial “Right to be Forgotten” ruling applied to search results on a global basis rather than just in its own jurisdic...
Should Europe’s Search Law Apply To The World?
Written by Chris Crum
  • Late last year, EU regulators in Brussels said they wanted the controversial “Right to be Forgotten” ruling applied to search results on a global basis rather than just in its own jurisdiction as it stands today. In other words, if someone is successfully able to get Google (or other search engines) to remove search results about them from its index in Europe, regulators want the search engine to remove the results from all of its localized versions, including

    Do you think results should be removed all over the world or should it be limited to Europe? Let us know what you think.

    Obviously this is a tricky subject since it leads to censorship of results in other countries with different laws.

    The Google Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten weighed in on the subject in a report. This is who the council is made up of (you can click the image to be taken to the official site, where you can read each person’s bio):

    The report looks at an overview of the ruling, the criteria for assessing delisting requests, and procedural elements. One section deals specificalliy with the geographic scope issue. Here’s what that part says:

    A difficult question that arose throughout our meetings concerned the appropriate geographic scope for processing a delisting. Many search engines operate different versions that are targeted to users in a particular country, such as for German users or for French users. The Ruling is not precise about which versions of search a delisting must be applied to. Google has chosen to implement these removals from all its European-directed search services, citing the CJEU’s authority across Europe as its guidance.

    The Council understands that it is a general practice that users in Europe, when typing in to their browser, are automatically redirected to a local version of Google’s search engine. Google has told us that over 95% of all queries originating in Europe are on local versions of the search engine. Given this background, we believe that delistings applied to the European versions of search will, as a general rule, protect the rights of the data subject adequately in the current state of affairs and technology.

    In considering whether to apply a deslistng to versions of search targeted at users outside of Europe, including globally, we acknowledge that doing so may ensure more absolute protection of a data subject’s rights. However, it is the conclusion of the majority that there are competing interests that outweigh the additional protection afforded to the data subject. There is a competing interest on the part of users outside of Europe to access information via name-based search in accordance with the laws of their country, which may be in conflict with the deslistings afforded by this Ruling. These considerations are bolstered by the legal principle of proportionality and extraterritoriality in application of European law.

    There is also a competing interest on the pat of users within Europe to access versions of search other than their own. The Council heard evidence about the technical possibility to prevent Internet users in Europe from accessing search results that have been delisted under European law. The Council has concerns about the precedent set by such measures, particularly if repressive regimes point to such a precedent in an effort to ‘lock’ their users into heavily censored versions of search results. It is also unclear whether such measures would be meaningfully more effective than Google’s existing model, given the widespread availability of tools to circumvent such blocks.

    The Council supports effective measures to protect the rights of data subjects. Given concerns of proportionality and practical effectiveness, it concludes that removal from nationally directed versions of Google’s search services within the EU is the appropriate means to implement the Ruling at this stage.

    In other words, with the overwhelming majority of Google users in Europe using localized versions of Google, it wouldn’t really be all that more effective in hiding results in question by removing them from other versions of Google outside of Europe. By doing so, search results would be unnecessarily censored in parts of the world (like the U.S.) where laws cater to open access of public information and media reports.

    Here’s the full report:

    Do you agree with the Council that the right to be forgotten should only apply to the European-based versions of Google and other search engines or do you think results should be removed from search engines on a global basis? Let us know in the comments.

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