EU adviser backs Google in ‘right to be forgotten’ case

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An EU adviser has backed Google in its legal bid to limit citizens’ ‘right to be forgotten’ to its search engines in Europe, according to a preliminary opinion from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Google has been fighting efforts led by France’s Data Privacy watchdog, CNIL, to globalize the ‘right to be forgotten’ rule.

The law allows people to send requests to Google (and other search engines) to remove information that is believed to be “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive” from its search engine.

Worldwide ‘de-referencing’

On Thursday, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar told the European Court of Justice that EU law should “should limit the scope of the de-referencing that search engine operators are required to carry out, to the EU.”

“The fundamental right to be forgotten must be balanced against other fundamental rights, such as the right to data protection and the right to privacy, as well as the legitimate public interest in accessing the information sought,” he said.

Szpunar is “not in favour of giving the provisions of EU law such a broad interpretation that they would have effects beyond the borders of the 28 member states,” the statement added.

The call for the ECJ to make a decision about the laws reach began from a 2016 clash between Google and the French regulator CNIL.

The CNIL fined Google 100,000 euros (£90,000) for failing to remove information across all of its domains.

Google appealed the fine and imposed “geo-blocking” technology that prevents users within the EU from accessing de-listed information.

Lobbying body welcomes opinion

In a statement, a spokesman for the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a lobbying body for tech companies like Google welcomed the opinion.

The opinion “balances EU residents’ right to be delisted while respecting the constitutional rights of citizens outside of the EU,” said CCIA Senior Manager Alexandre Roure. “We hope the final court ruling will take the same pragmatic and balanced approach,” he added.

A final decision is expected in the coming month. Judges at the ECJ usually, but not always, follow the adviser’s decision.

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