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French watchdog wants a global right to be forgotten

When Google agrees to a user’s request to be “forgotten”, it must delete the links from all search engine results, not just the European versions of it, France’s data protection regulator said on Friday.

The regulator (CNIL) said in a statement that if Google does not comply within 15 days, it can launch a process leading to sanctions, ramping up pressure on the U.S. giant following a landmark European legal ruling, Reuters reports.

The “right to be forgotten” is a practice in which users can ask Google to remove certain links from their search results. Those links, when searched for a person’s name, lead to an out of date website, or content which is irrelevant or inflammatory.

The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of such practice last May, and since then Google and other search engines have begun to grant de-listing requests when they meet certain criteria.

But when a person asked to be forgotten, it was only granted in certain areas. For example, if a person in Europe had his or her request granted, the links would be removed from results in Europe. Enter the same query in the United States, and the links are there.

The company maintains it should only apply the ruling across its European domains.

But EU data protection watchdogs, many legal experts and former German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who has advised Google on privacy following the European ruling, think it should be global.

"In accordance with the European court judgment, the CNIL considers that in order to be effective, de-listing must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine and that the service provided by Google search constitutes a single processing," the CNIL regulator said. France is the first country to open a potential sanctions process against Google.