Google Won’t Let Us Forget You

In 2014 the European Union’s highest court held that EU citizens had the “right to be forgotten,” or in other words, the right to request that a search engine remove from its results materials that are “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” Immediately after the ruling, Google began delisting results across all of its European versions of Google (google.fr, google.co.uk, etc.), while leaving the results on other versions of Google unaltered. In June 2015, France’s privacy regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, ordered Google to apply the right to be forgotten on all versions of the search engine throughout the world. Instead, Google used location information to restrict search results for anyone searching within the European Union, regardless of the version they used. But the CNIL was unsatisfied and fined the search engine €100,000 for not complying with the order. Google is appealing the order and the fine to France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État. Is Google required to comply with this order? What happens if it refuses? There have been numerous cases of countries attempting to impose their national standards on internet companies whose goods and services are offered throughout the world. In one case, Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack, a Canadian court ordered Google to remove certain web pages from its search results on searches performed both within Canada and throughout the world. On its first appeal, the court upheld the worldwide order, but that case is currently up on appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court. As such, precedent does little to predict the outcome of Google’s fight against France, but the...