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Google wants to limit 'right to be forgotten' requests to Europe

Google's legal chief says the search giant will review what others have to say about its policy, but the company maintains its "strong view" on handling website removal requests.

It's no European vacation for Google.

Google continues to restrict its "right to be forgotten" requests to the European versions of its search engine, despite increasing pressure to apply those requests globally.

"We've had a basic approach; we've followed it. On this question we've made removals Europe-wide, but not beyond," David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said at an event in Brussels on Monday, according to Reuters.

Last May, European lawmakers ruled that Google and other search engines must honor requests from individuals seeking to have their websites removed from search results because they may no longer be relevant or may infringe upon that person's privacy. Though Google disagreed with the ruling, the company has been carrying out the process by reviewing the more than 200,000 requests it has received, according to its latest Transparency Report.

The sticking point is that Google has been applying this process only to its European sites. For instance, if a citizen in France asks for a link to be removed from Google.fr -- Google's French site -- the link remains active on the global search engine, Google.com.

Google is satisfied with this process, but a watchdog group called the Article 29 Working Party is not. Comprised of the EU's 28 national privacy regulators, the Article 29 Working Party prepared a report in November advising Google to adopt a more global approach to erasing links. Moreover, at the end of this month, an advisory council is expected to publish another report that summarizes public input on Internet privacy and free flow of information, Reuters said.

Drummond said that Google plans to review both reports. He also said "it's our strong view that there needs to be some way of limiting the concept, because it is a European concept."

Article 29's recommendation puts Google in a tough position. The "right to be forgotten" ruling applies strictly to European citizens and not those in the US or other regions. Does that mean the links should be removed only in Europe so that other European citizens can no longer see them? Or does it mean they should be removed globally so that no one can see them? The recommendation itself would not be legally binding, but Google's failure to comply could place it in further trouble with European regulators.

Google also remains entangled in a European Commission antitrust probe that focuses on whether the company ranks results to its services above those offered by competitors. On Tuesday, the European Union's commissioner for the digital economy said that Google must offer more concessions to settle the probe, The New York Times reported. The European Parliament has gone so far as to call for a break up of Google to limit its dominance.

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for a comment.