Google has been complying with the European Union’s inane “right to be forgotten” legislation and court decisions, removing offending information from its search engines that cover the affected territories. However, there’s just one little problem: the Internet is global. All someone in Europe has to do to find those results is use Google.com, or some other non-European version of Google. As a result, France’s data protection authority, CNIL, has informed Google that it must remove any European right-to-be-forgotten results worldwide, not just within Europe.
CNIL’s president also claimed that “this decision does not show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially. It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.”
So, in other words, we don’t want to apply French law extraterritorially. We just want to apply French law extraterritorially.
As Google pointed out on its blog in July, allowing the laws of one country to affect what is legal to put on the Internet in the rest of the world is a slippery slope that leads to a lowest-common-denominator Internet where anything illegal anywhere must be removed everywhere.
Google will continue to appeal the decision, but France might choose to levy fines if Google should decline to censor its results outside of Europe. What will Google do if it can’t persuade higher French authorities to its point of view? In 2011, Google left China over censorship issues. Might it do the same for France?