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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU Hammers Out ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ on Web

(CN) - Dealing another blow to Google - and Microsoft's Bing - the European Union's data protection authority said Wednesday that the search engines must scrub results globally when requested, not just in Europe.

The data protection wing of the EU known as the Article 29 Working Party agreed to a set of guidelines on Wednesday that will help implement a Court of Justice ruling in May that gave Europeans the so-called "right to be forgotten" on the Internet.

In that ruling, the EU high court held that search engines - Google, in that case - bear the responsibility of erasing personal information from their databases upon request.

Since then, privacy watchdogs have been working on how to execute the ruling while Google has been scrubbing results from the European versions of its search engine. But those results can still be seen on Google.com, and that's not good enough for the watchdogs.

"From the legal and technical analysis we are doing, they should include the '.com'," said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of both France's data protection unit and the Article 29 Working Party.

Google had argued that it should only have to scrub search results from its EU versions, since it automatically redirects users to the local version when they use Google.com. But privacy regulators said that Google's plan declaws the "right to be forgotten" ruling because users can easily log on to the various national versions of the search engine and see results that haven't been scrubbed.

The watchdog group also said that notifying publishers and media outlets when their stories are delisted from Google will not be mandatory, which is something the tech giant had planned to do by email. Regulators said that doing so would bring people's names back into the open.

"There is no legal basis for routine transmission from Google or any other search engine to the editors. It may in some cases be necessary, but not as a routine and not as an obligation," Pierrotin said.

Google has had headaches in the EU for years, and not just over its privacy policies. The company has been embroiled in a four-year antitrust investigation by the European Commission, and earlier this year agreed to start showing ads from other search engines alongside its own promoted results in an effort to hush regulators' criticism that it abuses its global dominance.

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