Venture Explains: The Right to be Forgotten

What is it?

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that European residents could ask Internet search engines like Google to de-list search results which appeared under a person’s name when they’re out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory—the so called right to be forgotten.

So how many people actually want to be forgotten?

Google alone has so far received more than 250,000 removal requests, of which it has accepted around 40 percent.

But why does the tech giant still seems to be in some hot water?

Google has been limiting these removals to its European websites such as France’s Google.fe because it argues these are where the vast majority of its European searches originate from. But the CNIL, the French data protection authority, isn’t too pleased about this and in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from every single one of its websites globally.

What was Google’s response?

A resounding “non,” citing typically American First Amendment fears over limiting freedom of speech. “We’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe, and we’ll continue to do so,” said Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel. “But as a matter of principle, therefore, we respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue and we have asked the CNIL to withdraw its formal notice.”

What next?

Google could be fined for its refusal to extend the right to be forgotten. But analysts doubt they would make much of an impact on the company’s gargantuan bottom line.