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“Right to be Forgotten” may extend to other nations outside of EU

The European Union may require Google to remove content on websites hosted outside of the EU for users under the "right to be forgotten" ruling.

The Right to be Forgotten
EU privacy regulations may extend the "right to be forgotten" to include websites outside the EU as well. On Nov. 26 regulators met in Brussels to prepare a proposal that will require Google to apply the EU privacy obligation to other countries. The privacy regulation currently mandates that Google remove content of EU citizens who specifically request it. The regulation may soon apply to the United States and other countries as well, reported Bloomberg.

The privacy regulators expressed concern that information blocked by Google in the EU is still accessible to Internet users in other countries. According to Bloomberg, if the proposal is approved, all search engines will be required to remove content if they are asked to. Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, commented on the reasonableness of the proposal.

"This is a logical and sensible request from the European Union since Google is the entity that gathers the personal data and chooses to make the subsequent disclosure," Rotenberg said, according to the news source. "It would make little sense to allow Google to publish in domains outside of Europe private facts concerning EU citizens that should be removed from Google search results."

It remains to be seen how Google will respond to the "right to be forgotten" ruling as it relates to content in the U.S.

Background on the privacy mandate
The Right to Be Forgotten started with a lawsuit filed by a citizen in Spain who wanted Google to remove content that mentioned his name in connection Social Security debts. The European court later ruled in May that Google must allow people to have their information removed if they request it. Since then, Google has received over 174,000 requests from EU citizens requesting removal, reported E Week. The removal requests involve a wide range of content from criminal records to negative press mentions.

Google's Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten has commented that while the company wants to be respectful of EU law, the proposed expansion of the regulation might be difficult to abide by.

"[The proposal requires Google] to weigh, on a case-by-case basis, an individual's right to be forgotten with the public's right to information … We want to strike this balance right," the council said, according to E week.

Privacy groups, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have expressed their disapproval of the new EU requirement, comparing it to censorship.

"The court has created a vague and unappealable model, where Internet intermediaries must censor their own references to publicly available information in the name of privacy, with little guidance or obligation to balance the needs of free expression," the EFF wrote in a blog post in July, reported the news source. "That won't work in keeping that information private, and will make matters worse in the global battle against state censorship."

The Right to be Forgotten regulation does put Google in a difficult position because on the one hand it wants to abide by the laws of the countries it operates in. On the hand, Google has repeatedly voiced its support for free speech and first amendment protection. Google is like a patriarchal figure on the Internet and must set a good example for other tech companies and Internet users alike. In a world where many governments censor the Internet to protect their own regimes, Google and other companies based in countries that enjoy free speech rights, must stand for freedom of expression, while also displaying a respect for the rule of law. It is a precarious situation.

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