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Google rejects French request for broader 'right to be forgotten' rules

Google is pushing back against a request to expand the scope of Europe's "right to be forgotten" law. Last year, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that citizens of its member states could ask Google to delist search results that were irrelevant, out of date, or fit a mix of similar criteria. Google, which says it's received 290,000 requests since the rule took effect, has responded by removing information from country-specific versions of Google across Europe. But last month, French data privacy agency CNIL requested that the rule apply across all Google search pages.

"This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web," writes Google senior policy counsel Peter Fleischer in a statement released today. The big question to Google isn't the right to be forgotten, it's what kind of jurisdiction individual countries should have over web services that spread across the globe. "There are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country would be deemed legal in others," Fleischer continued, referencing Thailand's ban on insulting its king and Russia's restriction of "gay propaganda."

"The internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place."

"If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place," says Fleischer. He also claims that changing the rules would be "disproportionate and unnecessary," saying that around 97 percent of Google's French users visit Google.fr or another European country-specific version of the site. Consequently, he's asking CNIL to withdraw its request.

The original CNIL notice, released on June 12th, gave Google 15 days to start removing search results from all its sites. If Google did not comply, CNIL said that it would begin drafting a report recommending sanctions against the company.