'Right to be forgotten' by Google doesn't apply worldwide, Europe's top court rules

The rules to protect the privacy of European citizens only apply within the EU.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read
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Europe might forget, but the world remembers.

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Google scored a win on Tuesday when Europe's top court agreed with the search giant that it's not required to apply the same privacy standards worldwide as it does in the EU. According to the landmark ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google is not required to extend the "right to be forgotten" to versions of its search engine outside of Europe.

The right, which allows people to demand Google remove or delist links to information about themselves not in the public interest, was introduced in 2014 to protect people's privacy. Google complied with the decision made in Europe to remove links when requested, but only from European iterations of search. This means while a link might not show up in a Google UK search, it would still appear in the US version of Google. 

But France's data protection watchdog wanted Google to apply the removal of links globally in order to ensure privacy protection under European law. France hit Google with a 100,000 euro ($110,000) fine, which the company appealed at Europe's highest court. It was this decision that the court overturned on Tuesday.

"The Court concludes that, 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," it said in the ruling. But, the court added, any information delisted under the right to be forgotten must be delisted in every European member state, regardless of which country the request originated in.

"Since 2014, we've worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people's rights of access to information and privacy," said Peter Fleischer, senior privacy counsel for Google, in a statement. "It's good to see that the Court agreed with our arguments, and we're grateful to the independent human rights organisations, media associations and many others around the world who also presented their views to the Court."

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