A hearing on the extent of the right to be de-indexed opened on September 10, 2018, in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), following the referral by the French Council of State in July 2017 of questions regarding a case opposing Google and the French CNIL, including whether it should apply beyond the borders of the European Union.
The right to be de-indexed originated from a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice. In 2014 the court ruled search engines must respect Europeans’ privacy rights, and — on request — remove erroneous, irrelevant and/or outdated information about a private citizen.
From the decision, Google complied with the law through applying delistings on local domains in the EU states but not across Google.com. The particular case opposing the French CNIL and Google dates from June 2015, and has been appealed by Google in May 2016.
The case concerns whether search engines should have to remove reference to any sensitive personal information about individuals which would represent a significant expansion if granted.
The key argument on this case is that the current right to delist is not absolute; the rtbf only applies to private individuals, not to public figures (e.g. politicians and journalists); and also only applies where the information in question is outdated or irrelevant. So it is bounded and balanced, and absolutely does not apply to every individual and every piece of sensitive personal data.
The current implementation of the rtbf also means Google must review requests, to balance the public right to know against individual privacy rights.
The CNIL argues that global removal is necessary for the right to be de-indexed to be effective, while Google, civil society organizations and the EU Commission have contested this extraterritorial interpretation of the right to be de-indexed, highlighting the impact it would have on the right to access lawful information.
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