EU Pushes Google To Extend ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ To US Website

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
European regulators are putting pressure on Google to expand “right to be forgotten” requests worldwide, including to the Mountain View, California company’s US-based “.com” search engine, various media outlets are reporting.
According to BBC News technology desk editor Leo Kelion, a panel of EU data protection officials said that the expansion was necessary in order to prevent the company from getting around the law by de-listing results in the European version of its search engine but not the international one.
Currently, European visitors to Google.com are redirected to localized editions of the website, such as Google.co.uk and Google.fr. However, a link is provided from those pages to allow users to switch back to the international version, making it theoretically possible for people in European countries to avoid the censored versions of search results.
“Limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling,” representatives from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29) said in a statement Tuesday. “In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.”
The organization, which drafted the revised regulations following a two-day meeting in Brussels, also rebuked Google for notifying media outlets about story links it has removed under the “right to be forgotten” regulations, which were adopted back in May. WP29 said that doing so risks putting individuals who had been seeking privacy back into the spotlight, according to Bloomberg News.
A Google spokesman told PC Magazine’s Stephanie Mlot that the company had not seen the WP29 guidelines, but would “study them carefully when they’re published.” Mlot added that the company is also battling European regulators who are considering a proposal that would force them to split its search business from the rest of the company’s operations in all EU nations. A vote on that is expected Thursday, she said, though the European Parliament lacks the authority to force companies to break apart.
“The WP29’s guidelines also contain a list of common criteria that data protection authorities will apply to handle complaints filed with national offices following refusals of de-listing by search engines,” noted Loek Essers of PC World. “The list contains 13 main criteria that should be applied on a case-by-case basis, and aims to provide a flexible tool to help authorities to make the right decisions.”
As Bloomberg pointed out, the new guidelines are not binding, but national lawmakers can use them to put pressure on Google and seek legal recourse to make them comply. The news organization added that, while the “right to be forgotten” has been criticized by free-speech advocates in the US and UK, to date Google has removed 41.5 percent of the more than 500,000 links it has been asked to evaluate since the original EU court decision.
In May, the European Court of Justice ruled that search engines were responsible for removing sensitive information from Internet search results, and that companies such as Google could be ordered to delete links to information about individuals deemed to be outdated. It centered around a 2010 case filed by a man named Mario Costeja González, who sued the publisher of a prominent Spanish newspaper to remove links to articles about his social security debts.
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