French courts expand ‘Right to be Forgotten’ definition

The European court finding that created the infamous “Right to be Forgotten” judgment is back in the news again. This time it is both Google and lawyers for the court trying to hammer out what are the extent and limits of the ruling. There is pressure from both sides to provide a limitation on the scope of the judgment as it has been created solely from a European context. Right now, the expanded and redefined ruling stands – but Google is challenging it.


The basics of the right to be forgotten

Google sets up data removal webformThe basic understanding of the rule is that a European Union resident can submit an application to Google to have a link to a website or photo removed from their search engine results. The ruling is setting the standard for EU Internet rights, but it is being tested within the French courts. There have currently been over 145,000 requests to have links removed from French residents. The problem that has developed is that while Google is complying to remove the links from their dot FR search engine site, the links remain active on its other search engine sites, partner search engines, and independent search engines.


What the expanded definition calls for

The courts released an expanded definition of the scope of the ruling that determined that Google must make an effort in good faith to make the link inactive across their companywide architecture of search sites. It is acknowledged that the content of the link cannot be removed, which means it can always be found again. Google is pushing for further limitations on the expanded scope because they are the sole actor in the process of removing the links. The action of which is far more than the current department the company maintains can reasonably do or afford.


Can the right to be forgotten work if the content is still there?

One of the tactics that Google is pushing again is to try and get the courts to acknowledge that they can remove specific links, but that does not remove the content from the Internet. A new link, or even a copy of the old one, could be enough to trigger new search returns on an article requested to be forgotten. Google’s concern is that the court does bot grasp that there is little one can do to remove something from the web once it is on, and they seek limitations on the expectation of their good faith effort to meet the laws orders.


Not the favorite player

In Europe, Google is not seen as a favorite player in the protection of individual rights and privacy. The EU stance on privacy and copyright issues is much stricter than in Google’s home country. It may be an uphill battle for the company, but they do have cold reality on their side. A compromise will have to be reached to allow for an effective form of “Right to be Forgotten” to be implemented.

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