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France fines Google for restricting 'right to be forgotten'

Google has decried demands to expand the reach of the European Court of Justice's "right to be forgotten" ruling. France's data protection agency said citizens have the right to privacy as enshrined in international law.

France's National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) on Thursday said it fined Google 100,000 euros ($111,790) for not delisting web search results across all of its domains under the "right to be forgotten" ruling.

In 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that European citizens had the right to request search engines, such as Alphabet's Google and Microsoft's Bing, remove "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" search results linked to their name.

Google complied by partially delisting search results on its domains, specifically targeting its European sites, such as France's google.fr and Germany's google.de.

The search giant in June 2015 claimed that if it fully complied with the French agency's regulations, it would make the Internet as "free as the world's least free place."

Rights in question

The French authority said "freedom of expression" is not targeted, and that the regulation aims to protect citizens' rights.

"Contrary to Google's statements, applying delisting to all of the extensions does not curtail freedom of expression insofar as it does not entail any deletion of content from the Internet," the CNIL said in a statement.

"At a physical person's request it simply removes any links to website pages from the list of search results generated by running a search on the person's first name and surname. These pages can still be accessed when the search is performed using other terms," the data protection agency added.

Google's European relations spokesperson said the Internet giant will appeal the ruling.

"As a matter of principle, we disagree with the CNIL's assertion that it has the authority to control the content that people can access outside France, and we plan to appeal their ruling," Google spokesperson Al Verney, according to Reuters news agency.

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Another approach

Earlier this month, Google announced it would enforce delistings on all of its domains based on the location a query is made from.

"In addition to our existing practice, we will also use geolocation signals (like IP addresses) to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, including google.com, when accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal," Google said in a statement.

The change will retrospectively include search results delisted under the court's ruling, according to Google.

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