Back in May, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Europeans have the right to be forgotten online. Although Google, which handles over 90 percent of web searches across European countries, moved quickly to apply the ruling, the removals were limited to European domains, such as Google.co.uk or Google.fr. Now, the EU wants search engines to apply the same to searches worldwide.
The Article 29 Working Group, the EU's official data protection advisory body responsible for issuing guidelines on pan-European regulatory issues, has said that search engines should apply the right to be forgotten to their websites beyond the European Union, in particular .com websites like Google.com.
"The court says the delisting decision has to be effective," said the group's chairwoman Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who is also head of France's data-protection regulator. "These decisions should not be easily circumvented by anybody."
Google automatically redirects users to the local versions of its search engine, but it's easy to perform an unfiltered Google.com search by changing just a few characters on the browser address line.
In addition, the group insisted that search engines should limit how they notify publishers and media outlets that their stories have been the subject of such removals, saying that there is no legal basis for it. "It may in some cases be necessary, but not as a routine and not as an obligation," Pierrotin said.
When reached for comment, a Google spokesperson said, “We haven’t yet seen the Article 29 Working Party’s guidelines, but we will study them carefully when they’re published.”
It's worth noting that the Article 29 Working Group doesn’t have any enforcement power, however, recommendations it makes reflect the positions of the national regulators, which have the power to take action against companies under their respective national laws.