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France Fines Google For Alleged Violation Of Privacy Law

March 25, 2016 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

Google has been at odds with European authorities over the past few years for a number of reasons, including alleged tax evasion. However, while several American firms like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Starbucks have faced severe criticism in Europe for the lengths these companies have supposedly gone to avoid having to pay taxes in the EU, the one area where Google has gotten some support from many quarters is in its ongoing battle against the French privacy watchdog, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL). The agency now says that it has fined Google 100,000 euros ($111,720) for allegedly failing to fully comply with the controversial “Right to be Forgotten” ruling issued by the European Court of Justice in May 2014 that requires Google and other internet search engines operators like Microsoft and Yahoo to expunge certain web-search results when requested.

As part of the ruling issued last year, the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo are required by law to erase all search results deemed irrelevant, antiquated or potentially damaging to an individual, a community or an organization, in case the subject at the receiving end of such postings approaches the search engine with a so-called ‘Right to be Forgotten’ request. While Google has consistently maintained that it has been doing its best to comply with European regulations, privacy watchdogs in the continent are far from convinced. Google says that it has received hundreds of thousands of such requests ever since the ruling was issued last year, and while the company does comply with many of those requests as and when it deems fit, EU data protection authorities apparently want more. The American search giant originally started filtering its search results only on its European domains such as Google.de in Germany or Google.fr in France, but was eventually forced to even include Google.com and other non-European domains because that was exactly what the new legislation had apparently called for.

While Google did finally start filtering out results across all its domains from last month, it did so only for searches coming out of the country of origin of the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ request. Meaning, those outside of Europe could still access all the information without any hindrance. However, even that was too much to handle for the French data protection agency, according to whom, once Google does get a valid request, it needs to scrub all its search results pertaining to that person or organization not just for searches originating out of that particular country, but across all its domains everywhere around the world, notwithstanding the “geographic origin of those viewing the search results”. Google says that it disagrees with the ruling and will appeal against it in accordance with the law.