The âright to be forgottenâ looks less likely to go global on Google and other search engines after an adviser at the EUâs top court said it was not justified.
At present, the right to be forgotten allows citizens in EU countries to demand any results about them considered âinadequate, irrelevant or… excessiveâ to be removed, if the search is carried out in an EU country â even though the web page would still exist, it would be difficult to find on a search engine.
It came into force in 2014, after Spanish national Mario Costeja sought to remove out-of-date links relating to unsettled debts that had since been settled.
Franceâs data regulator, the Commission Nationale de lâInformatique et des Libertes (CNIL), had been probing the European Court of Justice to clarify whether the ability to de-list links should go beyond google.fr, the French site of Google, extending to other versions across the world.
Advocate General Maciej Szpunar has issued his non-binding opinion to the European Court of Justice on the case, proposing that the court should limit the scope of the dereferencing that search engine operators are required to carry out to the EU.
Mr Szpunar said that the principle should be âbalancedâ against other rights, such as data protection and privacy, as well as the âlegitimate public interestâ.
âPublic access to information, and the right to privacy, are important to people all around the world, as demonstrated by the number of global human rights, media and other organisations that have made their views known in this case,â Googleâs senior privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said in reaction to todayâs announcement.
Free speech advocacy groups are concerned that countries such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia would have greater power in censoring information on the internet if the principle was to be rolled out beyond the EU.
âEuropean data regulators should not be able to determine the search results that internet users around the world get to see,â said Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19, a British-led group of non-governmental organisations.
âThey should only be able to de-list websites within their countryâs jurisdiction, and should balance the rights of both privacy and free speech when making that decision.
âWe hope that the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) will follow Szpunarâs opinion when it issues its judgement in this case later this year.
âThe Court must limit the scope of the âright to be forgottenâ in order to protect global freedom of expression and prevent Europe from setting a precedent for censorship that could be exploited by other countries.â
The final judgement is not expected from the European Court of Justice until three to six months time.