Google Inc. will not comply with an order from France's privacy watchdog to enforce the controversial “right to be forgotten,” worldwide, the company announced Thursday.
France’s data protection agency, the CNIL, issued a formal order to Google in June to expand its program of delisting, upon request, search results that appear under a person's name. Currently, when Google accepts such requests, it delists results only from its European sites -- not from Google.com or other international versions of its search engine.
In a blog post, Peter Fleischer, the company's global privacy counsel, described the order as “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.”
“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,” Fleischer added. “In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place.”
The post said that Google “respectfully disagree[s] with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue,” adding that it had asked the agency to withdraw its order.
The conflict stems from a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice, which said that European citizens have the right to demand that search engines delist results linked to their name when they are out of date, irrelevant, inflammatory or excessive, which has been dubbed the "right to be forgotten."
Under the law, Google has evaluated and processed over a quarter of a million requests to delist links to more than one million individual web pages, the company said.
The law has been the subject of some controversy -- requests the company has received to take down information have come from people, including a former politician seeking re-election who asked to have links to articles about his behavior in office removed; a man convicted of possessing images of child abuse who requested links to pages about his conviction be wiped; and a doctor who wanted negative reviews from patients scrubbed from search results for their name, according to BBC.
The CNIL said it would examine Google's appeal and decide whether to accept it in two months.
"We have taken note of Google's arguments which are mostly of a political nature. The CNIL, on the other hand, has relied on a strictly legal reasoning," a spokeswoman told Reuters.
The dispute comes amid a broader conflict between European regulators and U.S. technology companies. In recent months, European regulators have launched an unprecedented series of investigations of U.S. technology companies, probing a variety of allegations from anti-competitive practices to tax avoidance. The EU recently launched an antitrust inquiry into Amazon.com Inc.’s e-book business and is also considering new regulations aimed at reining in the behavior of big Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported.