Right to be Forgotten: Protection of privacy or breach of free data?

France fining Google EUR100,000 in light of inadequate data removal can be cue for a bigger discussion of privacy and data integrity in our future.

Published Date
25 - Mar - 2016
| Last Updated
25 - Mar - 2016
 
Right to be Forgotten: Protection of privacy or breach of free da...

The data protection authority of France has fined Google by €100,000 (Rs. 74,64,700 approx.) for inadequate removal of history data and activities related to personal web searches. In accordance to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in May 2014, individuals received the power of asking search engine monitors like Google and Microsoft to remove irrelevant and inappropriate information related to web search results. This ruling gave rise to the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ — a right that has since been debated on regarding its status as a special provision or as one of the fundamental human rights.

In an issued statement, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) stated that “the only way for Google to uphold the Europeans’ right to privacy was by delisting inaccurate results popping up under name searches across all its websites.” However, in counter-argument, Google stated that removal of past data from the entirety of the Internet means restricting free flow of information across the virtual web. This may (read: will) have massive implications in relation to information sourcing, that often plays critical role in precedence across multiple cases. As a result, Google removed data of specific requests from its local websites, and not the international platform. For instance, if it were applicable in India, an Indian’s request to enforce his/her right to be forgotten would lead to the removal of the relevant URL only from Google.co.in, and not Google.com. This has been done to preserve the sanctity of natural course of action, i.e., a proper reflection of reality wherein an action done in the past cannot be undone under any circumstance.

"The question of privacy looms large, as does the question of removing actions that may hold importance"

The CNIL, however, has disagreed on this term. “Applying delisting to all of the extensions does not curtail freedom of expression insofar as it does not entail any deletion of content from the Internet,” the body stated. To provide a solution to the claims of the European Union and keep its principal operating ways fluent, Google decided upon faux removal of information wherein a person will not see the data he/she requested to be removed when accessing the search engine from his country. For instance, a French national will not see the link requested to be removed across all of Google’s sites, when accessing the data from within France. Such action was taken in order to solve security concerns of a nation, while keeping the international access of data intact. “As a matter of principle, we disagree with the CNIL’s assertion that it has the authority to control the content that people can access outside France, and we plan to appeal their ruling,” a Google spokesman told Reuters.

The fine has been imposed after the French data protectors decided that right to privacy of personal information cannot be adequately confined in terms of geographical locations, and “only delisting on all of the search engine’s extensions, regardless of the extension used or the geographic origin of the person performing the search, can effectively uphold this right.” It will be interesting to see the next course of actions that Google takes in accordance to the Right to be Forgotten.


Contested: Should the Right to be Forgotten be allowed easy enforcement?

More countries have been recognising the Right to be Forgotten as an effective ruling, with Japan citing the right against Google in a lawsuit, where a man was accused of involvements with child pornography. While the question of privacy and the amount of information available in the hands of search engine giants is a pertaining question demanding wider, concrete rulings (which, incidentally, is difficult to enforce), the presence of information on the Internet has aided multiple instances of straightening affairs of crimes and legal involvements.

The path, as it seems, can be wider than a mere fine and singular lawsuits.

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Souvik DasSouvik Das

Sentience.