Google Search Data, Personal Rights Questioned In Proposed Global Law

The internet opened borders to extend e-commerce and search globally. Now a French ruling based on the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” decision aimed at search engines wants to extend laws worldwide. On Tuesday, Google will appeal.

The EU court ruling said search engines must honor individual requests to remove personal information from searches, but can balance those requests against the public interest in keeping those results linked to that person, such as in the case of public figures.

“The Google dispute before the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg is the highest-profile case yet to test where jurisdiction begins and ends when it comes to data,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporters Sam Schechner and Jacob Gershman. “Google is appealing a 2015 order from France’s privacy regulator, CNIL, to extend the EU’s “right to be forgotten” to all of its websites, no matter where they are accessed.”

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This ruling could become the precursor to rules governing international search related to data and global trade online. In 2017, an international coalition of lawyers, scientists, government representatives and academics began drafting a legal manual of space warfare. The legal perimeters would establish the use of weapons for military uses in outer space such as guidance on the legality of attacking satellites and firing lasers from space during war.

It all comes down to the use of data and the personal information found in searches. France argues that the “right to be forgotten” request is useless if it can be “dodged by spoofing” a person’s location by connecting to a virtual private network.

Google asserts that this step allows for censorship and dictates what people around the world can see online.

The clash between the way data is managed and how it is moved around from country to country could ultimately set worldwide standards, or at least per continent.

Last year, Canada’s highest court ordered Google to globally block search results linking to commercial websites associated with a company accused in Canada of stealing trade secrets.

A U.S. federal judge later declared that the Canadian ruling was not enforceable in the U.S., but reportedly, Google ultimately agreed to comply. The injunction remains in place.

“If Google complies with the French ruling ordering global application, the firm risks running up against U.S. free-speech protections,” wrote Schechner and Gershman. “Content providers could seek U.S. court injunctions to stop removals, but then Google would face EU privacy fines if it complies. Under the EU’s new privacy law, such fines can rise to as much as 4% of a company’s annual world-wide revenue.”

The WSJ reported that Google will argue the right-to-be-forgotten ruling already effects France for more than 99% of searches and the EU “has an obligation to minimize legal conflict with other jurisdictions.” Google also will argue that the right-to-be-forgotten law is far from settled in many countries, such as the U.S., where freedom of speech prevails over privacy concerns.

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