GOOGLE GETS A LOT OF HEAT from the European Union, what with the antitrust fines an all, but in a trend-bucking move an adviser to the EU court has basically supported the search giant by saying search engines shouldn't be forced to apply the 'right to be forgotten' beyond the EU's borders.
The European Court of Justice's advocate general Maciej Szpunar touted that preliminary opinion as part of an ongoing case involving Google and France's data privacy regulator.
Said case dates back to the 2014 'right to be forgotten' ruling that gives people the right to request search engines scrub them from search results.
In 2015, Google got embroiled in a spat with the French regulator for not applying the right to be forgotten to all its national search engines, rather than just its French domain.
This resulted in Google getting hit with a €100,000 fine in 2016 from the French privacy agency.
Google appealed the fine and both it and the French regulator then went to the courts to seek clarification on France's order to apply the right to be forgotten to all its global search engines.
Roll one several years and Szpunar told the top EU court that Google should not be forced to apply the right to be forgotten outside of EU borders.
"Search requests that are made outside the territory of the European Union should not be subject to the de-referencing of search results," said Szpunar.
The advocate general's opinion cited that the right to be forgotten should be balanced against the legitimate interests of the public when accessing information.
"[If] worldwide de-referencing were permitted, the EU authorities would not be able to define and determine a right to receive information, let alone balance it against the other fundamental rights to data protection and to privacy," a press release summarising Szpunar's opinion explained.
"This is all the more so since such a public interest in accessing information will necessarily vary from one third State to another depending on its geographic location. There would be a risk, if worldwide de-referencing were possible, that persons in third States would be prevented from accessing information and, in turn, that third States would prevent persons in the EU Member States from accessing information."
Another opinion from Szpunar was also released noting that when it comes to requests to remove sensitive data such as racial origin and political opinion, search engines should agree to the request, but at the same time should "ensure protection of the right of access to information and of the right of freedom of expression".
Szpunar's opinion carries weight in the EU court, but the court will ultimately need to come to a final decision whether to go by his opinion or support a ruling more in line with that of France's data privacy regulator.
The decision is expected to be made later this year. But in the meantime, Google can at least take some comfort in Szpumar's opinion essentially backing its stance on the application of the right to be forgotten. µ
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