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Google 'right to be forgotten' case referred to top EU court

The case has high stakes for how far-reaching national regulations can be enforced over the internet.

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The EU will decide on the reach of the "right to be forgotten."

Claudia Cruz/CNET

The European Union's top court will decide whether or not Google is required to remove certain results from its iconic search engine.

The crux of the matter is the so-called "right to be forgotten," a policy in Europe that lets people ask search engines to remove some results from queries of their own names. What's in question isn't the policy itself -- Google already complies with it -- but how far-reaching those de-listings should be.

The EU court will examine if Google has to remove results only in countries where the request was made, or beyond national borders. The referral to the EU's top court came from France's privacy regulator.

The decision will set a precedent over how broadly national laws can be enforced internationally -- a tricky situation when it comes to the internet.

"Each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that it chooses, not in the way that another country chooses," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "We're doing this because we want to ensure that people have access to content that is legal in their country. We look forward to making our case at the European Court of Justice."

First published July 19 at 10:47 a.m. PT.
Update at 11:36 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Google.