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EU court rules in Google's favour in privacy fight with France over 'right to be forgotten'

Georges Gobet, AFP | The Google logo on a wall at the entrance to the Google offices in Brussels.

The European Union's top court says Google doesn't have to extend the EU's "right to be forgotten" rules to its search engines globally.

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The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that there "is no obligation under EU law for a search engine operator" to extend beyond the EU member states the court's 2014 ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online.

It said, however, that a search engine operator must put measures in place to discourage internet users from going outside the EU to find that information.

The case highlights the need to balance data privacy and protection concerns against the public's right to know. It also raises questions about how to enforce differing jurisdictions when it comes to the borderless internet.

“Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject... to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine,” the European Court of Justice said in its ruling.

“However, EU law requires a search engine operator to carry out such a de-referencing on the versions of its search engine corresponding to all the member states,” it added.

The case arose after France’s privacy watchdog CNIL in 2016 fined Google €100,000 ($109,790) for refusing to de-list sensitive information from internet search results globally upon request in what has been dubbed the “right to be forgotten”.

Google took its fight to the French Council of State, which subsequently sought advice from the European court.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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