Commentary

Google Privacy Chief Slams French Regulators Over Censorship Demands

Google appears to be doubling down its high-profile battle with French regulators, who are demanding that the company censor its search results throughout the world.

"It’s plain common sense that one country should not have the right to impose its rules on the citizens of another, especially not when it comes to lawful content," global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer says in a new blog post.

His post comes as Google currently is asking a French court to rule that the so-called "right to be forgotten" doesn't require the company to purge links from its worldwide search results.

The right to be forgotten, endorsed in 2014 by Europe's highest court, requires Google to remove links to embarrassing information about people at their request, after weighing people's right to privacy against the public interest in the information.

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Google says the ruling only requires the company to prevent links from appearing in the results pages of search engines aimed at specific countries, like Google.fr, aimed at French residents. But the French CNIL says Google must delete the links from all of its search engines, including Google.com in the U.S.

Google recently appealed that ruling to a French court, and a host of advocacy groups, including the Center for Democracy & Technology, are siding with Google on the question.

In his latest blog post, Fleischer outlines the reasons why Google believes the CNIL's interpretation of the law is problematic. Among the most compelling is that the CNIL's decision could set a precedent that other countries would attempt to follow.

"Ultimately, we might have to implement French standards on Google search sites from Australia (google.com.au) to Zambia (google.co.zm) and everywhere in between," he writes. "And any such precedent would open the door to countries around the world, including non-democratic countries, to demand the same global power."

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