Google has refused to comply with an order by the French privacy watchdog to remove search results on request. The French are demanding that the search engine apply the recent "right to be forgotten" ruling globally, while Google insists it be administrated locally.

Last month, the CNIL, the French data protection authority, ordered Google to remove search results on request from all of its search engines in applying the "right to be forgotten" doctrine handed down last year by the European Court of Justice. The ruling requires search engines to remove search results related to residents of all European countries if an individual specifically requests the removal and the information is defamatory, dated or not currently relevant.

Google has been abiding by the ruling ever since and has received approximately 250,000 removal requests, of which it has accepted around 41 percent. The company has only removed the results from European versions of its website, however, based on the assertion that over 95 percent of searches in Europe are performed using the local sites. Therefore, Google's U.S. site, Google.com, and other local Google search engines outside of the European Union still contain the search results removed in Europe.

Google articulated its stance in a recent blog post, written by global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, which read, in part, "As a matter of principle, therefore, we respectfully disagree with the CNIL's assertion of global authority on this issue and we have asked the CNIL to withdraw its formal notice."

Google argues that if it were to apply the principal globally, any one country would have control over what content is accessed by users worldwide, and "the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place."

That position is supported by a team of experts with which the company consulted in regard to how the ruling should be applied, but others argue that if the right to be forgotten is only honored locally, users could easily access the information removed on request by switching to another version of a search engine. Theoretically, all any European user has to do to view the removed search results is to type Google.com into his or her Google.fr (France) search engine and then type the name of the individual in the resulting search engine box.

While Google will now be subject to fines for not complying with the order, the amounts are relatively minimal.

 
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