The Right to be Forgotten is limited by the European Court of Justice

On September 24th, the Court of Justice of the European Union put an end to the litigation between Google Inc. and the French National Data Protection Authority (Comission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés – CNIL), on the scope of the right to be forgotten. 

Context: In 2015, the CNIL ordered Google to expand its de-indexation, regarding the implementation of the right to be forgotten to all domains of its search engine. With this decision, a de-indexation request, based on the right to forgotten, claimed before that would have effects in several countries around the world, not just in France. The nonfulfillment to comply with this resolution by the company, resulted in a fine of 100,000 Euros. In light of this, the company appealed to the French Administrative Court (Conseil d’État) seeking the annulment of this decision. In its defense, Google argued that by imposing de-indexation to all of its domains of the search engine, the European Union (EU) would be violating the principle of Non-Interference, as well as the principles of freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of communication, and freedom of press disproportionately. As the subject raised sensitive issues, the Conseil d’État decided to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Court’s Decision: In order to solve the litigation, the Court has ruled that rights relating to the protection and free movement of personal data must be interpreted as meaning that when a search engine operator accepts a de-indexation request. It does not have to expand such deletion of references in all its versions and only of the versions that correspond to the Member States of the European Union. In addition, the decision addresses the need to combine the de-indexation with measures to prevent users located in the EU from having access to de-indexed content through other countries’ search engine versions.