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Google wins landmark right to be forgotten case

The EU's top court has ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally.

It means the firm only needs to remove links from its search results in Europe - and not elsewhere - after receiving an appropriate request.

The ruling stems from a dispute between Google and a French privacy regulator.

In 2015, CNIL ordered the firm to globally remove search result listings to pages containing damaging or false information about a person.

The following year, Google introduced a geoblocking feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links.

But it resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world. And the firm challenged a 100,000 ($109,901; £88,376) euro fine that CNIL had tried to impose.

"Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject... to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine," the European Court of Justice ruling said.

Google had argued that the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses were it to be applied outside of Europe.

"Since 2014, we've worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people's rights of access to information and privacy," the firm said in a statement following the ECJ ruling.

"It's good to see that the court agreed with our arguments."

The tech firm had been supported by Microsoft, Wikipedia's owner the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the UK freedom of expression campaign group Article 19, among others.

ECJ adviser Maciej Szpunar had also concluded that the right to be forgotten be limited to Europe in a non-binding recommendation to the court earlier this year.

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