Google has confirmed previous reports that it is to comply with European regulators requesting that the Internet giant extend the scope of the so-called “right-to-be-forgotten” legislation beyond that of European search engines.
The right-to-be-forgotten ruling, or “right to delist” as Google perhaps more accurately calls it, was the result of an E.U. directive back in 2014 that was designed to help individuals hide web pages that contained out-of-date, irrelevant, and ultimately “damaging” information about them.
So far, this has meant that people living in the E.U. could submit requests to Google and other search engine operators to have such web pages deindexed from E.U. versions of search engines — such as .de (Germany), .fr (France). or .co.uk (U.K.). But last year, a request made by France demanded that Google and other search engines deindex web pages from all Google Search domains, including Google.com.
Google initially filed a public appeal against France’s request last year. “This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the Web,” Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Google, said at the time. But the tête-à-tête continued, and the French regulator said that if Google did not comply it would recommend sanctions or fines against the company. It wasn’t clear who would emerge victorious in this standoff, but it looks like the E.U. has had its way.
“We’re changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we’ve had with EU data protection regulators in recent months,” Fleischer explained in a blog post. “We believe that this additional layer of delisting enables us to provide the enhanced protections that European regulators ask us for, while also upholding the rights of people in other countries to access lawfully published information.”
Google will tap IP addresses and other geolocation “signals” to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, however, delisting will only apply to the country of the person who requested the removal. For instance, if a URL is deindexed based on the request made by someone living in France, all users in France would not be able to see that URL on any Google Search property (including Google.com). However, if someone from France were to travel to another country — even within the E.U. — they would be able to see the web page, but only on a non-E.U. version of Google.
The Internet giant has said it will automatically apply the change retrospectively, covering all deindexing requests it has received over the past two years.
So this can be marked as another minor victory for E.U. regulators in their ongoing battle with U.S. tech companies, though there are many more still to resolve, including the Android anti-competition brouhaha that’s ongoing.