Google is seeking support from "everyone who cares about public access to information" in its battle with European regulators over the so-called "right to be forgotten."
"We will argue in court for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them," Google general counsel Kent Walker said Wednesday in a blog post. "We encourage everyone who cares about public access to information to stand up and fight to preserve it," he writes, adding that European countries and institutions can weigh in with the court until November 20.
The EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, is currently considering two cases dealing with the "right to be forgotten." That right was created in 2014, when EU judges ruled that Google (and other search engines) must remove links to embarrassing information about Europeans at their request, after weighing their right to privacy against the public interest in the information. (The "right to be forgotten" doesn't exist in the United States, where free speech principles protect the right to publish accurate information.)
Google has interpreted the right to be forgotten in Europe more narrowly than some officials. The search company contends that the ruling only requires the removal of links to some material in European countries, like Google.fr, but not from its worldwide search results, including the U.S. page Google.com.
In 2015, French regulators rejected Google's position and ordered the company to remove material from all of its results pages.
Google is now asking Europe's highest court to reject that view. "We ... believe that this runs contrary to the basic principles of international law: no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of another country, especially when it comes to linking to lawful content," he writes. "Adopting such a rule would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world."
Kent says that the second case centers on four people who have argued that "sensitive data" -- including information about criminal records and political affiliations -- should not be available through search engines.
"If the court accepted this argument, it would give carte blanche to people who might wish to use privacy laws to hide information of public interest -- like a politician’s political views, or a public figure’s criminal record," he writes.