Maybe you saw the headline about Google winning its “right to be forgotten” lawsuit in France, or maybe you skipped right over it. After all, what does it have to do with the US and your data or your company’s data? The implications, while they’re a little complicated, might surprise you.
What would have happened if France would have won its lawsuit against Google?
The outcome that Google was likely fearing was that because EU residents have been able to request the de-linking of sites where their personal information was being used or inaccurately reported, Google would have to apply those requests when granted to non-EU versions of their site.
Google has a German version of Google, a UK version of Google, a French version of Google, and it knows based on your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which version of its site should be served to you when you bring it up in your web browser. Since 2014, Europeans have had the right to request links to pages containing sensitive personal information about them be removed, this has been commonly called “the right to be forgotten.”
Europeans have been able to make a request, verbally or in writing, to any organization that they’d like a link/ information removed. The organization has one month to respond as to whether they will remove the requested link/ information.
The BBC reports that Google estimates since May of 2014, it has processed more than 845,000 requests to remove a total of 3.3 million web addresses. Google says about 45% of the links ultimately were delisted.
Delisting included Google removing the results from its European sites and limited results from its other sites if it detected a search was being conducted inside Europe.
The European Court of Justice ruling in France did not address the fact that users connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) may be able to access the links because their location may be masked by a VPN.
The ECJ ruling said that delistings must “be accompanied by measures which effectively prevent or, at the very least, seriously discourage an internet user” from accessing results on a non-EU Google site.
What does all this mean for you?
A Google search in the U.S. will still turn up things about Europeans that they requested Google take down in Europe. You can make a request in France to have a link removed, but that does NOT mean Google will delist it across the entire Internet.
Google isn’t out of the woods yet on this. They still will face other litigation because the ECJ’s rulings aren’t followed by all of Europe. How the UK interprets this ruling will be interesting to watch!