Google panel backs firm on EU limit to 'right to be forgotten'

By Julia Fioretti
Attendees Dominie Liang (L) and Ruslan Belkin utilize the common area at the Google I/O Developers Conference in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, in this file photo taken on May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A panel of experts appointed by Google to advise it on how to implement an EU ruling ordering it to remove links to some personal information from search results has backed the company's view that links be removed only from websites in Europe.

That puts the so-called Advisory Council at odds with the European Union's data protection regulators who said at the end of last year that Google should remove links worldwide, including from

Google set up its eight-member panel last year to draw up a report, published on Friday, on how to implement the surprise "right to be forgotten" ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May.

The report is non-binding and carries no legal weight.

The panel, which includes a former German justice minister and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, concluded that Google should only remove links to personal information deemed inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant from its European websites, such as in Germany or in France.

"It concludes that removal from nationally directed versions of Google’s search services within the EU is the appropriate means to implement the ruling at this stage," the council said in the report.

However, one member, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former German justice minister, dissented, saying that de-listing search results should be global.

"Since EU residents are able to research globally the EU is authorized to decide that the search engine has to delete all links globally," she wrote in the report.

The geographic scope of the ruling has highlighted the difficulty of applying national law to the Internet.

The French privacy regulator, the CNIL, which chairs the group of EU regulators, said that it would keep requesting delisting globally.

"It's not in the interest of Google not to comply...because at the end of the day they have to comply with the law," CNIL technology and innovation director Gwendal Le Grand said.

The issue of whether Google or any other search engine should inform the original publisher that a link to their site will no longer appear under searches for a person's name has also been divisive.

People who have been denied the right to have links removed can turn to their national data protection authority (DPA) to contest the decision.

The Advisory Council, however, said that the original publisher of the information should also "have a means to challenge improper delistings before a DPA or a similar public authority".

EU regulators previously said there is "no legal basis for such routine communication under EU data protection law."

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Susan Thomas)