Memory is a funny thing. It can be good, it can be bad, it can cost you $112,000 for remembering a little too much for a little too long.

Yet another privacy-related grievance, which most certainly is not a new thing for Google Inc., was filed by France claiming that Google has failed to comply with a previous European privacy ruling. Because of this, the French data protection authority imposed a 100,000 euros (about 112,000 USD) penalty against the Internet giant.

This is not the first time Google has had a run in with the Europeans. In 2014, the Sanctions Committee of the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) issued a 150,000 euro (approximately 167,000 USD) penalty against Google for its non-compliance with the French Data Protection Act. This privacy policy which has been effective since March 1, 2012.

"On 1 March 2012, Google decided to merge into one single policy the different privacy policies applicable to about sixty of its services, including Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Picasa, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc." the CNIL stated in a press release. Because of the number of services involved, "nearly all Internet users in France are impacted by this decision."

According to the CNIL, the Working Group of all European Union (EU) Data Protection called the G29 carried out an assessment of the said privacy policy, subsequently coming up with the conclusion that Google Inc. has violated the EU legal framework and also failed to follow-up on the several recommendations given to it.

In May 2014, stemming from the Spanish case Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja Gonzalez, the Court of Justice of the European Union established the "right to be forgotten" which states that people have the option to request search engines such as Google to get rid of unnecessary or inappropriate information found in web results which show up in Internet searches of people's names.

On Google's end, it complied by removing web search results across its European websites such as Google.fr in France. However, Google refused to apply this globally, saying that doing so infringe on people's rights to freedom of expression.

Essentially, France wants a more polished web search cleanup by Google. They want Google to enforce the "right to be forgotten" policy across its global domains, not just in its European operations. CNIL stated that this is inadequate because it is too easy to switch to Google.com from a European domain, and that there is no violation for freedom of expression because delisting to all extensions does not involve deletion of content from the Internet. 

In response to this, Google spokesperson Al Verney stated that they will appeal the ruling, claiming that CNIL does not have the authority to control the content that people outside of France can access. However, to appease the complainant authority, Google delisted search results across all its websites including Google.com, provided it is accessed from the country where the request to "forget" came from.

 Still, CNIL is not satisfied, stating that an individual's privacy right should not be contingent on the "geographic origin of those viewing the search results."

Google's European privacy removal requests can be viewed on their Transparency Report.

Photo: Robert Scoble | Flickr  

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